Study: Smoking Causes Almost Half of Deaths from 12 Cancer Types

Almost half the deaths (48.5%) from 12 different types of cancer combined are attributable to cigarette smoking, according to a study by researchers from the American Cancer Society and colleagues. Cancer types known to be caused by smoking include cancer of the liver, colon and rectum, lung, oral cavity and throat, esophagus, larynx (voice box), stomach, pancreas, bladder, kidney, and cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia.

The authors based their calculations on the records of almost 346,000 adults age 35 and older who died of these 12 cancer types in 2011. They used data from several sources including the 2011 National Health Interview Survey and the Cancer Prevention Study II. They estimate almost 168,000 of the deaths were attributable to smoking.

Lung cancer had the largest percentage of deaths attributable to smoking with 80.2%, followed by larynx (voice box) cancer with 76.6%. About half the deaths from oral cavity/throat cancer, esophagus cancer, and bladder cancer were attributable to smoking. Percentages for the other cancer types studied ranged from 23.6% for liver cancer to 9.7% for colon and rectum cancer.

The study was published online June 15, 2015 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

More stop-smoking efforts needed

The percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes has decreased from 23.2% in 2000 to 18.1% in 2012, but smoking continues to cause a significant number of deaths from cancer. In 2015, an estimated 171,000 people will die from cancer that was caused by smoking. The study’s authors say continued progress in reducing deaths from smoking will require more restrictions on cigarettes and more anti-tobacco education for populations with higher rates of smoking.

“Although we’ve made great progress in last the 50 years, huge disparities in smoking remain,” said Rebecca L. Siegel, MPH, lead author of the study and American Cancer Society director, surveillance information. “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. There are also geographic disparities. Cigarette taxes in tobacco producing states are about 1/3 the rate of non-tobacco producing states. Georgia’s tax is about 37 cents compared to $4.35 in New York.”

Guide to Quitting Smoking

In addition to cancer, smoking greatly increases the risk of long-term lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It also raises the risk for heart attack, stroke, blood vessel diseases, and eye diseases. Half of all smokers who keep smoking will eventually die from a smoking-related illness.

The American Cancer Society can help if you're ready to quit smoking or know someone who is. See our Guide to Quitting Smoking or call us at 1-800-227-2345. You don’t need to do it alone – getting help increases your chances of success.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Deaths Due to Cigarette Smoking for 12 Smoking-Related Cancers in the United States. Published online June 15, 2015 in JAMA Internal Medicine. First author Rebecca L. Siegel, MPH, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.

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