A recent study has found that 70 per cent of the cancer deaths among Massachusetts men in 2003 was due tosmoking - the figures are much higher than a previous such estimate of 34 per cent in 2001.
Bruce Leistikow, a UC Davis associate adjunct professor of public health sciences, says that this finding strengthens the association between tobacco smoke and cancer deaths.
In a report on his epidemiological analysis, published online in BMC Cancer, the researcher writes that the study's findings suggest that increased tobacco control efforts could save more lives than previously estimated.
"This study provides support for the growing understanding among researchers that smoking is a cause of many more cancer deaths besides lung cancer. The full impacts of tobacco smoke, including second-hand 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," said Leistikow.
Leistikow used National Center for Health Statistics data to compare death rates from lung cancer to death rates from all other cancers among Massachusetts males.
The assessment revealed that the two rates changed in tandem year-by-year from 1979 to 2003, with the strongest association among males aged 30-to-74 years.
Smoking is known to be behind most of the lung cancer cases, and the study authors concluded that the very close relationship over 25 years between lung and other cancer death rates suggested a single cause for both: tobacco smoke.
Leistikow, whose research is dedicated to uncovering the causes of premature mortality, said: "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. It also suggests that increased attention should be paid to smoking prevention in health care reforms and health promotion campaigns."