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CDC Reports Tobacco Responsible for Over 2 Million US Cancer Cases

Sep 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that tobacco use is responsible for 2.4 million cases of cancer in the United States from 1999 to 2004, with lung and bronchial cancer accounting for about half of all of the cancer cases.  The CDC also found that cancers of the larynx, mouth and pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix are caused by tobacco as is acute myelogenous leukemia.

"The data in this report provides additional, strong evidence of the serious harm related to tobacco," said Sherri Stewart of the CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, who led the study.  Stewart's team reviewed cancer surveys and registries covering 92 percent of the U.S. population.

The study revealed that Kentucky had the highest rates of lung cancer among men and women, while Western states with low rates of smoking also had low cancer rates.  Tobacco-related cancers were more common among blacks, non-Hispanic whites and men, reflecting the groups that use tobacco more, the CDC found.

"Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States and the most prominent cause of cancer," said the CDC's Dr. Matthew McKenna.  "The tobacco-use epidemic causes a third of the cancers in America," McKenna added.  The CDC reports that tobacco use kills 438,000 people prematurely every year, including 38,000 people do not smoke, but suffer the effects of secondhand smoke.  "Tobacco use causes more deaths each year than alcohol use, car crashes, suicide, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), homicide, and illegal drug use combined," the report reads.  "In addition, smoking accounts for $167 billion annually in health care expenditures and productivity losses."

Cancer is not the only serious health concern that cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke cause.  Experts have long known that children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and that such exposure either prenatally or early in life can raise a child's risk of developing asthma symptoms, and, now, allergies.  Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms in children and slows their lung growth and causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children.  It has also long been believed that prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke can cause lung damage and emphysema.

In the past, doctors lacked a way to prove this and previous detection methods simply weren’t sufficiently sensitive, but ew technologies have enabled researchers to confirm that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can cause structural damage in the lungs, indicative of emphysema.  In recent years, secondhand smoke has emerged as a public health threat, being classified as a carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency and linked to heart disease, lung cancer, and a number of respiratory ailments, including asthma and chronic bronchitis. According to the American Lung Association, 35 percent of American children live in homes where regular smoking occurs.  Also, smokers have a higher risk of developing several chronic disorders including atherosclerosis, several types of cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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