Researchers have shed new light on the lethal effects of smoking, finding that at least 345,962 cancer deaths annually in the U.S. can be linked to the nicotine habit.
The new study determined that 12 types of cancer can be caused by smoking. When these 12 cancers are pooled together, scientists calculated that nearly half of all deaths – 48.5 percent – were attributed to cigarette smoking.
About 45 percent of those deaths are the result of cancers of the lung, bronchus and trachea, according to the study just published in the JAMA Internal Medicine . An additional 15 percent of the deaths are tied to colorectal cancer; 11 percent are due to pancreatic cancers, and 6 percent are linked to liver cancers.
Lung, Larynx Cancer Deaths Have Strongest Ties to Smoking
Lung cancer has the strongest connection to smoking. The study found that an estimated 83 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 76 percent of lung cancer deaths in women are the result of smoking. But smoking also has a substantial impact on cancers of the larynx. A striking 93 percent of larynx cancer deaths in women, along with 72 percent of larynx cancer deaths in men, are due to cigarette use, the researchers found.
Other Cancer-Deaths Percentages Tied to Smoking:
Esophageal cancer — 51 percent
Mouth and throat cancers — 47 percent
Bladder cancer — 45 percent
Liver cancers — 24 percent
Uterine and cervical cancers — 22 percent
Stomach cancers — 20 percent
Kidney cancer — 17 percent
Myeloid leukemia — 15 percent
Pancreatic cancer — 12 percent
Colorectal cancer — 10 percent
The researchers – from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center – combined data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey, the Cancer Prevention Study II and five studies that are known as the Pooled Contemporary Cohort to come up with the cancer-related mortality rates.
“Cigarette smoking continues to cause numerous deaths from multiple cancers despite half a century of decreasing prevalence,” states the study, which is the first comprehensive analysis of smoking-attributable mortality in a decade.
The study’s authors concede that estimates are likely conservative, since “tobacco exposures other than cigarettes were not included in our analysis.”
“These exposures include secondhand smoke, which is estimated to cause an additional 5 percent of lung cancer deaths, and the use of cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco, which undoubtedly account for a considerable proportion of deaths from cancers of the oropharynx, larynx, and andesophagus,” the study concludes.
U.S. Smoking Rate at 18%
More than 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked in the years preceding the landmark 1964 report from the Surgeon General of the United States that essentially ushered in a widespread anti-smoking campaign. That smoking rate over the past 51 years has dropped to about 18 percent.
“From 2000 to 2012, smoking prevalence decreased from 23.2 percent to 18.1 percent,” the new study states. “In contrast to this favorable trend, recently published data revealed that the risk of cancer death among smokers can increase over time.”
Currently, one-in-five deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking causes about 90 percent of male and 80 percent female lung cancer deaths. And smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease.
“There has been tremendous progress,” says Baptist Health pulmonologist Rodney Benjamin, M.D.  “Most people who can do it have stopped smoking. But people who still smoke are just addicted.”
Despite stern public service announcements on TV and endless published findings that chronicle nicotine’s adverse affects on the body, young people are picking up the cigarette habit.
E-Cigarettes and Young People
Meanwhile, the use of electronic cigarettes by teens and preteens has surged 300 percent during the last 12 months, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The news comes at a time when health and policy officials have issued warnings about the health risks of e-cigarettes.
The new study’s authors say that greater effort in helping smokers quite is required to reduce smoking-related cancer deaths.
“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,” the study’s authors said.
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