Sir Richard Doll: Remembered

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One of the key researchers who originally discovered, researched and publicized the fact that smoking causes lung cancer (and other diseases) was Sir Richard Doll. In 1950 he published a paper in the British Medical Journal and Ernst Wynder and colleagues published a similar study in the United States, both showing a very strong relationship between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

Doll went on to follow up a large cohort of British doctors for 50 years, producing some of the best evidence we have on the effects of long term smoking and of quitting. These studies have shown that if you keep smoking there is at least a 50% chance it will kill you. Dolls studies also found that the long term smoker will lose an average of 10 healthy years of life because of their smoking, and he was one of the most influential British epidemiologists.

Interestingly, when Doll first started to look for the cause of the rapid increase in lung cancer he was a smoker. He initially suspected it was the tar that was being used to coat roads that may be causing lung cancer. However, it soon became clear that cigarette smoking was the culprit.

I’m mentioning Sir Richard Doll now because a new video commemorating his achievements has been launched on the BBC website.

If you are interested in understanding how it was discovered that smoking is deadly, or learning more about one of the most influential epidemiologists of our time, check out the link:

http://www.bmj.com/video/doll.dtl
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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