HEIDELBERG, Germany, June 12 (UPI) -- An international meta-analysis of smokers age 60 and older found it is never too late to quit tobacco, German researchers said.
Carolin Gellert and colleagues at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany, said the review assessed the impact of smoking on all-cause mortality in people age 60 and older.
The study authors identified 17 studies from seven countries -- the United States, China, Australia, Japan, England, Spain and France -- published from 1987 to 2011.
The follow-up time of the studies ranged from three to 50 years and the size of the study populations ranged from 863 to 877,243 participants, Gellert said.
The review, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found an 83 percent increased relative mortality for current smokers and a 34 percent increased relative mortality for former smokers compared with those who never smoked.
"In this review and meta-analysis on the association of smoking and all-cause mortality at older age, current and former smokers showed an approximately two-fold and 1.3-fold risk for mortality, respectively," the researchers said in a statement. "This review and meta-analysis demonstrates that the relative risk for death notably decreases with time since smoking cessation even at older age."
In an accompanying commentary, Dr. Tai Hing Lam of the University of Hong Kong, said many older smokers believe incorrectly they are too old to quit or too old to benefit from quitting.
"If you have helped two smokers quit, you have saved -- at least -- one life," Lam said.