Model Christy Turlington has disclosed that she is suffering from early-stage emphysema.
The 31-year-old Calvin Klein model discovered the disease during a lung scan she underwent to raise public awareness of the latest technology, The Times of London revealed Friday. She has become an anti-smoking campaigner since her father died of lung cancer in 1997.
Although she quit smoking at age 26, the damage had already been done. “The really frightening thing is, there was enough of an effect from my smoking that it caused permanent damage,” she told the newspaper.
“When I started modeling, I wanted to appear more grown up, and smoking easily did that for me. By 16 I was smoking a pack a day,” said Turlington, who says she had her first cigarette at age 13.
Claudia Henschke, a professor of radiology at Cornell University, analyzed Turlington’s scan. He told The Times, “The reason I scanned her, even at her young age, is that more women are getting lung cancer and maybe she has greater susceptibility because … she had a history of passive smoking.”
Turlington must now undergo regular scans to monitor the disease, according to The Times. Henschke said treatments were being developed that might help to reverse early-stage emphysema. She praised the model’s decision to talk about her condition. “I think her being a part of this and lending her name to this is going to make a big difference, especially to young women.” Turlington has just volunteered to appear in an anti-smoking ad produced by Britain’s National Health Services that will air soon in the United Kingdom.
“The British ad is me describing the experience of losing my father in a very real, conversational way,” she says. “You [usually] just hear all the statistics about smoking-related disease and you don’t get to hear what actually happens to people. People with lung cancer die by drowning in the fluid in their lungs. … It seems so ironic — breathing is part of the normal process that sustains life; you breathe in cigarettes and they take your breath away.”