Smoking-Related Cancers Aren’t Limited to the Lungs

According to JAMA Internal Medicine, half of the 346,000 people 35 and older who died from cancer in 2011 had a history of smoking cigarettes. But what’s truly remarkable about the new research is that this is the first study to identify deaths from 11 kinds of cancer besides lung cancer that were associated with cigarette use.

As described by KaiserHealthNews.org, the researchers referred to the 2014 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report as fundamental to their study, which estimated the annual number of smoking-related deaths from cancer generally and from lung cancer specifically between 2005 and 2009.

The study traced how smoking behavior and its association with cancer have changed over time. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people who smoked decreased from 23 in 100 to 18 in 100, and the number of deaths for most types of cancer tied to smoking also declined.

That’s good news, but for people who smoke, the risk of developing cancer might increase over time. Even though smoking in the U.S. has declined over 50 years, that behavior still causes nearly 170,000 deaths from cancer every year, the researchers concluded.

The researchers wanted to define the magnitude of risk for different types of cancer. They analyzed 12 cancers in relation to cigarette smoking, and – no surprise – lung and bronchial (air passages) cancers were the most closely associated with smoking. But half of the deaths from oral cavity (mouth, tongue, gums), esophagus and bladder cancers were attributed to smoking as well.

Reducing the rates of smoking-related cancer, the scientists concluded, requires more extensive control of tobacco.

The study was led by Rebecca L. Siegel of the Intramural Research Department at the American Cancer Society. In a story on the American Cancer Society (ACS) website, she said “People who are poor have double the rate of smoking as people who are not. Gay and lesbian people are almost twice as likely to smoke as straight people.”

She also pointed out how smoking rates vary depending on where you live. “Cigarette taxes in tobacco-producing states are about one-third the rate of nontobacco-producing states,” she said. “Georgia’s tax is about 37 cents compared to $4.35 in New York.”

In addition to cancer, smoking raises your risk of long-term lung diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, as well as heart attack, stroke, blood vessel diseases and eye diseases such as macular degeneration. Half of all smokers who keep smoking, according to the ACS, eventually will die from a smoking-related illness.

For help in saying goodbye to cigarettes, see the ACS’ Guide to Quitting Smoking, or call the organization at (800) 227-2345.

For more information about lung cancer, see our blogs on the topic, and to read about myths associated with tobacco use, link here.

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