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Smoking, Tobacco Use Linked to 40 percent of Cancers in United States

A new report shows that although cigarette smoking in the United States has declined, 40 percent of cancers still are caused by tobacco use.

A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that tobacco use is the leading, preventable cause of cancer in the United States.

According to the study, 40 percent of cancers diagnosed in the United States may have a link to tobacco use. In addition to lung cancer, the use of tobacco products also can cause cancers of the mouth and throat, voice box, esophagus, stomach, kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder, cervix, colon and rectum and a type of leukemia.

“There are more than 36 million smokers in the U.S.,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement. “Sadly, nearly half could die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses, including 6 million from cancer, unless we implement the programs that will help smokers quit.”

Although smoking has steadily declined, three in 10 cancer deaths still can be attributed to cigarettes, according to the CDC. During 2014-2015 alone, there was a 1.7 percentage point decline, resulting in the lowest prevalence of adult cigarette smoking since the CDC's National Health Interview Survey began collecting such data in 1965.

“When states invest in comprehensive cancer control programs—including tobacco control—we see greater benefits for everyone and fewer deaths from tobacco-related cancers. We have made progress, but our work is not done,” said Lisa C. Richardson, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.

Despite a movement to curb tobacco use and cancers across the United States, not all people have experienced the benefits of these efforts, which include tobacco prevention and control resources, along with access to medical care and cancer treatment.

The CDC’s Vital Signs report on tobacco-related cancers shows that:

  • Incidence and death rates were highest among African-Americans compared with other races or ethnicities, people who live in counties with a low proportion of college graduates and people who live in counties with high poverty levels.
  • By region, incidence rates were highest in the Northeast (202 per 100,000 persons) and lowest in the West (170 per 100,000 persons).
  • Incidence rates for tobacco-related cancers remain higher among men (250 per 100,000 persons) than women (148 per 100,000 persons).

Each year between 2009 and 2013, about 660,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with, and about 343,000 people died from, a cancer related to tobacco use, according to the CDC.

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