Probably Shouldn’t Smoke

February 13th, 2009 | Sources: BMC Cancer, BurrillReport


A study published in BMC Cancer suggests that cigarette smoking is the cause of over 70% of all cancer deaths in men.

publicenemy#1Previous estimates had put the number at 34%, according to UC Davis associate adjunct professor Bruce Leistikow, the lead author on the paper.

The difference needs to be evaluated in the context of a friendly dispute among epidemiologists about the best way to estimate the burden of disease associated with smoking.

Leistikow and his team used a new methodology that’s gaining traction in academe. In a nutshell, they assumed age-adjusted lung cancer death rates were a good proxy for tobacco exposure, and assessed how closely the rates of other cancers tracked with lung cancer rates.

Non-lung cancers whose rates track extremely closely with lung cancer are presumed using this method to be caused by cigarette smoking. 

 “This study provides support for the growing understanding among researchers that smoking is a cause of many more cancer deaths besides lung cancer,” Leistikow told BurrilReports.

“The full impacts of tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke, have been overlooked in the rush to examine such potential cancer factors as diet and environmental contaminants. As it turns out, much of the answer was probably smoking all along,” he continued.

 “It also suggests that increased attention should be paid to smoking prevention in health care reforms and health promotion campaigns,” Leistikow concluded.

And that’s not all. Four years ago, Massachusetts banned smoking in restaurants, bars and many workplaces. Last fall, the state Department of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health reported that 600 fewer Bay State residents died from heart attacks as a result of the ban.



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