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
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.