|Mohamed K. Mohamed, MD|
Cone Health Cancer Center
A new study of death rates from 12 types of cancer reveals just how dangerous cigarette smoking can be.
We all know smoking can cause lung cancer, but it also causes more than 48 percent of deaths from 11 other types of the disease, including cancer of the liver, kidney, pancreas and uterus. The research, which was reported in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that of almost 346,000 cancer deaths in 2011 in people 35 and older, nearly 168,000 were caused by smoking.
The findings are important because many people only associate lung cancer with smoking. Now we have data showing the impact of cigarette smoking on these other types of cancer. It’s clear that to save lives, we need to step up our efforts to control smoking.
As expected, the study showed that smoking has the strongest link to lung cancer, causing more than 80 percent of deaths from the disease. For U.S. men and women, it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths, and more people die from lung cancer than breast, colorectal and prostate cancers combined. Only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, and if the cancer spreads to other organs, the five-year survival rate is only 4 percent.
The good news is that the percentage of Americans who smoke dropped from 23 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2012. Policy changes like prohibiting smoking in public places has helped. People find they can go for a long period without smoking, and that’s encouraged many of them to stop
While fewer people smoke, the use of e-cigarettes is rising, especially among young people. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year showed the number of middle and high school students who use e-cigarettes tripled in 2014. This is especially concerning since nicotine exposure at an early age can affect brain development and lead to nicotine addiction. Many young people have the idea that e-cigarettes are not harmful, but since they’re not regulated, we really don’t know how much nicotine or other toxins they contain.
Every smoker or former smoker knows it’s not easy to quit, but in my experience, people who are really determined to stop smoking are the most successful. I’ve seen people quit for good after smoking 50 years. It’s never too late, because in a matter of weeks, the heart and lungs and other organs affected by smoking will start to heal.
And every day you don’t smoke, you lower your risk of cancer.
If you want to quit smoking, plenty of help is available. For smokers who are committed to quitting and age 18 or older, Cone Health offers a free eight-session smoking cessation program. Classes are held both day and evening. Learn more by calling 336-832-0894. Help is also available by calling the NC Quitline at 1 (800) QUIT-NOW or 1 (800) 784-8669.