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Half Of Deaths From Major Cancers Involve Smoking, Research Shows

Around half the deaths caused by certain major cancers in the United States can be attributed to smoking, an American Cancer Society study suggests.

In addition to lung cancer, smoking is implicated in colon and pancreatic cancers and many others, the study shows.

In fact, experts say, research has shown there are 12 types of cancer that can be the result of smoking.

Almost half the 346,000 deaths from those 12 cancers in people 35 and older in 2011 were linked to smoking, the researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

And while the incidence of smoking has decreased - from 23.2 percent in 2000 to 18.1 percent in 2012 - there is data suggesting the risk of death from cancer can increase for smokers over time, they wrote.

"Cigarette smoking continues to cause numerous deaths from multiple cancers despite half a century of decreasing prevalence," their published study said. "Continued progress in reducing cancer mortality, as well as deaths from many other serious diseases, will require more comprehensive tobacco control, including targeted cessation support."

Smoking-related cancer deaths are likely to increase for the next several decades because it will take that long for the consequences of smoking among current smokers to become apparent, says study co-author Rebecca Siegel, director of surveillance information for the American Cancer Society.

"If we could reduce smoking, we would have a lot fewer cancers," she says. "The poor are twice as likely to be smokers as the non-poor."

"While we have made a lot of progress in tobacco control, there is still a lot to do."

Lung cancer still has the strongest link to smoking - an estimated 83 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 76 percent in women are the result of smoking - but many other forms of cancer have demonstrated a strong association with smoking.

Those include cancers of the larynx, esophagus, mouth and throat, liver, bladder, stomach, as well as uterine and cervical cancers.

Smoking has also been blamed for kidney cancer, pancreatic and colorectal cancer, and myeloid leukemia, say the researchers from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, Harvard Medical School and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

They analyzed data from a number of surveys of people who were at least 35 years old.

The study should be considered as a wake-up call for a public that, when considering smoking and cancer, usually thinks of lung cancer and nothing else, says Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior scientific adviser to the American Lung Association.

"This study shows that there is a huge burden of other cancers caused by smoking in addition to lung cancer," he says.

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