Cigarette Smoking Linked to Nearly a Third of U.S. Cancer Deaths

By Kelly Burch 10/28/16

Smoking remains the most common cause of preventable death.

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 Cigarette Smoking Linked to Nearly a Third of U.S. Cancer Deaths

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health, but a new study shows just how deadly the habit is: smoking cigarettes contributed to 167,000 cancer deaths in 2014, about 29% of total cancer deaths in the country. 

The study, by the American Cancer Society, was published this week. It analyzed health surveys and data on smoking rates and deaths from smoking-related cancers, including lung, throat, stomach, liver, colon, pancreas and kidney cancers, as well as leukemia. 

The percentage of cancer deaths attributed to smoking varied widely across states, but were alarming everywhere. "The human costs of cigarette smoking are high in all states, regardless of ranking," the authors said.

Cancer deaths related to smoking among men were most prevalent in Arkansas (40%). Such deaths among women were most prevalent in Kentucky (29%). The lowest rates for both men and women were in Utah, where 22% of cancer deaths in men and 11% in women were attributed to smoking. 

The study found interesting correlations between smoking and cancer deaths in various populations. Smoking caused the highest percentage of cancer deaths in the South, where the habit is generally more accepted. Researchers found that nine of the 14 states with the least comprehensive smoke-free indoor policies are in the South. The cost of cigarettes is also cheaper in southern states, which may contribute to the higher rates of death. 

Not only did men have higher cancer death rates associated with cigarettes than women, there were differences along racial lines as well. Among males, black Americans had a 35% rate, whites a 30% rate, and Hispanics 27%.  

Among women, whites were most likely to die from smoking-related cancer, with 21% of cancer deaths tied to cigarettes—compared with 19% for blacks and 12% for Hispanics. 

Smoking rates are falling around the country, but 40 million American adults are cigarettes smokers, so it’s no surprise that smoking remains the top cause of preventable death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Researchers pointed out ways to reduce cancer deaths caused by smoking: “Increasing tobacco control funding, implementing innovative new strategies, and strengthening tobacco control policies and programs, federally and in all states and localities, might further increase smoking cessation, decrease initiation, and reduce the future burden of smoking-related cancers,” they wrote.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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