Smoking and Secondhand Smoke Raise Diabetes Risk

By May Wilkerson 09/23/15

Smoking is the leading cause of avoidable illness across the world.

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Smoking is the leading cause of avoidable illness across the world, killing about six million people a year. But though most people are well-aware that smoking can lead to cancer, lung, and heart disease, fewer people are aware of the link between smoking and type 2 diabetes, a common, preventable illness that affects how the body digests glucose.

Current smokers and people exposed to secondhand smoke are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a new meta-analysis that included almost six million people. Among those who quit, the risk decreases significantly over time.

The new findings, published online in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, are based on an analysis of the results of 88 studies from across the world. The results show that 2.4% of type 2 diabetes cases in women and 11.7% in men could be traced back to active smoking.

The risk of developing diabetes was 37% higher among current smokers, 14% among former smokers, and 22% higher among people who were exposed to secondhand smoke.

"Despite global efforts to combat the tobacco epidemic, smoking remains a major public-health threat for many countries,” said study lead author An Pan, Ph.D., from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China. “Our findings provide strong evidence that smoking is related to increased risk of diabetes and lend further support to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Pan said.

Another recent study by Pan found that smokers with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a 50% higher risk of mortality or heart attack, and quitting smoking can reduce these risks.

“Smoking cessation and avoidance of secondhand smoke remains a major target for diabetes prevention,” he said. “Although diabetes risk remains high in recent quitters, the risk substantially reduces as the time since quitting increases.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.