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Smoking causes half of deaths from 12 cancers

It’s declining – but still causes over three-quarters of lung and larynx cancer deaths in US

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Nearly half of all deaths in the US from 12 cancers in adults are still attributable to cigarette smoking, say researchers – even though smoking rates are continuing to decline there – and for some of these cancers, they estimate that well over three-quarters of deaths are caused by smoking.

They have called for greater efforts to control tobacco use and encourage people to quit. In their American Cancer Society-funded study, reported in a research letter* in JAMA Internal Medicine, they examined data on smoking rates and cancer deaths over the past decade, using data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey (which provides smoking prevalence estimates based on interviews of a representative sample of US adults), the Cancer Prevention Study III and the ‘pooled contemporary cohort’.

Between 2000 and 2012 in the US, smoking prevalence declined from 23.2% to 18.1%. Also in the US, in 2011, there were 345,962 deaths among adults aged 35 and over from 12 cancers: of the colorectum; oesophagus; kidney and renal pelvis; larynx; liver and intrahepatic bile duct; lung, bronchus and trachea; myeloid leukaemia; oral cavity and pharynx; pancreas; stomach; urinary bladder; and uterine cervix.

The researchers estimated that overall, almost half (48.5%) of all these deaths were attributable to cigarette smoking, despite the reduction in the national smoking rate.
But more than four-fifths (80.2%) of all deaths from cancers of the lung, bronchus and trachea were attributed to smoking, and almost as many of the deaths from cancers of the larynx (76.6% overall, rising to 93.4% among women). Cigarette smoking was also estimated to have caused roughly half of all deaths from cancers of the mouth and pharynx (47.0%), oesophagus (50.7%) and bladder (44.8%).

The authors concluded: “Cigarette smoking continues to cause numerous deaths from multiple cancers despite half a century of decreasing prevalence. ... Continued progress in reducing cancer mortality, as well as deaths from many other serious diseases, will require more comprehensive tobacco control, including targeted cessation support.”

Siegel RL, et al. Deaths Due to Cigarette Smoking for 12 Smoking-Related Cancers in the United States. JAMA Internal Medicine 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.2398.

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