Jan. 22, 2009 -- It is widely accepted that tobacco smoke causes most lung cancer deaths. A new study shows that tobacco smoke -- including secondhand smoke -- may also contribute to non-lung cancers more than previously thought.
Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics and concluded that tobacco smoke may have led to more than 70% of cancer deaths among Massachusetts men in 2003.
"This study provides support for the growing understanding among researchers that smoking is a cause of many more cancer deaths besides lung cancer," says researcher Bruce Leistikow, a University of California, Davis associate adjunct professor of public health sciences, in a news release. "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."
Researchers compared death rates from lung cancer to death rates from other cancers from 1979 to 2003 among Massachusetts males. Their analysis revealed that the two rates changed in tandem year-by-year from 1979 to 2003.
The researchers conclude that the close relationship between the rates suggests that they have the same cause, which is tobacco smoke.
"The fact that lung and non-lung cancer death rates are almost perfectly associated means that smokers and nonsmokers alike should do what they can to avoid tobacco smoke," Leistikow says in the news release. "It also suggests that increased attention should be paid to smoking prevention in health care reforms and health promotion campaigns."
In the study, published online in BMC Cancer, the researchers called for increased tobacco control efforts.