WEDNESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Bans on smoking in
public places, hikes in cigarette taxes and other efforts to get
people to quit smoking prevented close to 800,000 deaths from lung
cancer between 1975 and 2000 in the United States, a new study
The findings, published online March 14 in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, likely represent just the tip of the iceberg as lung cancer is only one of the diseases linked to tobacco smoke, experts say.
Researchers led by Dr. Suresh Moolgavkar, of the biostatistics
and biomathematics program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center in Seattle, developed a sophisticated model to estimate
changes in U.S. smoking patterns resulting from tobacco-control
efforts, and how these changes affected deaths from lung cancer
between 1975 and 2000.
During that time, nearly 2.1 million lung cancer deaths occurred
among men and about 1.05 million lung cancer deaths occurred among
women. The researchers predicted that over 552,000 lung cancer
deaths among men and 243,000 among women were averted by
While an impressive number, this is just one-third of the number
of deaths that could have been averted had all U.S. cigarette
smokers successfully quit smoking and no one else started after the
watershed 1964 U.S. Surgeon General's report on the dangers of
tobacco, the researchers calculated.
On the other hand, if smoking behaviors had not changed at all
after the Surgeon General's report, an additional 795,000 people
would have died of lung cancer.
"Quitting smoking most definitely reduces deaths from lung cancer. However, too many people continue to smoke," Moolgavkar said. "The most effective way to reduce the burden of lung cancer is to get smokers to quit and to prevent non-smokers from taking up smoking."
Another study author, Eric Feuer, chief of the Statistical
Methodology and Applications Branch of the U.S. National Cancer
Institute, said that Americans have come a long way, but can't
afford to become complacent.
"We can't let our guard down and we really need to continue our efforts," Feuer said. Recent data from the Surgeon General's office showed that one in four U.S. high school seniors still smokes and three in four high school smokers continue to smoke as adults.
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital
in New York City, said that "the new study is good news and very
persuasive. It shows us very conclusively that less smoking means
fewer smoking-related deaths."
And it is more than lung cancer rates that are likely
decreasing, Horovitz noted. "Smoking cessation would also reduce
rates of heart attack, stroke and the lung disease, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease," he said. "The list goes on and
In an editorial accompanying the new findings, Thomas Glynn,
director of cancer science and trends and international cancer
control at the American Cancer Society, wrote: "The good news is
that we have become more aggressive in our tobacco control
Many of the deaths averted occurred in 2000, suggesting that the
efforts are picking up steam. Glynn noted that his own father died
from lung cancer after smoking for decades and never met his
"He was not one of the 795,000, but seeing [her] would have brought tears to his eyes, and thinking of him, and what he missed due to tobacco, brings tears to mine," Glynn wrote.
Learn more about the
risks of tobacco smoke at the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
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