Cigarette smoking and diabetes mellitus: evidence of a positive association from a large prospective cohort study

Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Jun;30(3):540-6. doi: 10.1093/ije/30.3.540.


Objective: Only a few prospective studies have examined the relationship between the frequency of cigarette smoking and the incidence of diabetes mellitus. The purpose of this study was to determine whether greater frequency of cigarette smoking accelerated the development of diabetes mellitus, and whether quitting reversed the effect.

Methods: Data were collected in the Cancer Prevention Study I, a prospective cohort study conducted from 1959 through 1972 by the American Cancer Society where volunteers recruited more than one million acquaintances in 25 US states. From these over one million original participants, 275,190 men and 434,637 women aged > or = 30 years were selected for the primary analysis using predetermined criteria.

Results: As smoking increased, the rate of diabetes increased for both men and women. Among those who smoked > or = 2 packs per day at baseline, men had a 45% higher diabetes rate than men who had never smoked; the comparable increase for women was 74%. Quitting smoking reduced the rate of diabetes to that of non-smokers after 5 years in women and after 10 years in men.

Conclusions: A dose-response relationship seems likely between smoking and incidence of diabetes. Smokers who quit may derive substantial benefit from doing so. Confirmation of these observations is needed through additional epidemiological and biological research.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology