November 11, 2016
2 min read

CDC: Tobacco use linked to 40% of cancer diagnoses

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Cancers associated with tobacco use make up 40% of all United States cancer diagnoses, and tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of cancer and cancer deaths in the United States, according to a recent CDC Vital Signs report.

CDC officials also said the cigarette smoking rate has reached an all-time low, thanks in part to state and local groups’ efforts, but stressed more work must be done.

Thomas Frieden
Thomas Frieden

Tobacco use and the cancers related to it remain a “persistent and preventable health threat in this country,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news briefing.

“…Although smoking rates are at an all-time low, tobacco causes cancer of at least 12 parts of the body, accounts for three in 10 cancer deaths and will kill six million current smokers unless we implement programs to help them quit,” he said.

According to the CDC, research suggests that in addition to lung and head and neck cancer, tobacco use is associated with cancers of the rectum, colon, cervix, bladder, liver, pancreas, kidney, and stomach, and acute myeloid leukemia, as well as cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack and stroke, and pulmonary problems, such as COPD.

Among the CDC’s recent findings: men have a higher rate of tobacco-related cancer deaths than women; blacks have a higher rate of tobacco-related cancer deaths than other race groups; the burden of tobacco-related cancers is worse in areas with high poverty levels and low levels of education; and approximately 1.3 million deaths from cancers linked to tobacco use have been prevented since 1990. In addition, tobacco use results in 480,000 deaths and more than $300 billion in productivity losses and direct health care expenditures each year, and it costs $1,000 less per year to care for an ex-smoker than a smoker.

National Health Interview Survey data show among U.S. adults, the proportion who smoke cigarettes declined from 20.9% (45.1 million) in 2005 to 15.1% (36.5 million) in 2015. During 2014-2015 alone, there was a 1.7% decline, marking the lowest incidence of adult cigarette smoking since the National Health Interview Survey began compiling such data in 1965.

The CDC offered several recommendations for states and local entities to help them continue their efforts to reduce tobacco use rates, including promoting smoking cessation programs; powerful mass media campaigns; establishing and following up on smoke-free laws; and raising tobacco product prices.

“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,” Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH, director, CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said in a press release.

“Much of the good work that’s been done to reduce tobacco use has happened at the state and local levels. Much more needs to be done to address the gaps and better help communities that are disproportionally impacted by tobacco-related cancers,” Frieden said. “Progress across the [United States] has been inconsistent. There are large disparities among groups of people who use tobacco and disparities in the groups affected by tobacco related cancers.”

The CDC’s data were released a week before the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 17, an annual American Cancer Society initiative that encourages smokers to quit. – by Janel Miller

Disclosures: Frieden and Richardson are employees of the CDC.

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