Tobacco Epidemic On The Rise

by Medindia Content Team on Jul 18 2006 1:54 AM

Health officials have warned that going by the current trends tobacco will probably kill a billion people this century, which would be almost 10 times the toll it took in the 20th century.

John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society said, "In all of world history, this is the largest train wreck not waiting to happen." According to two new reference guides that record the global tobacco use and cancer, 1 in 5 death due to cancer is due to tobacco, which means about 1.4 million deaths worldwide every year. It was reported that when deaths from tobacco-related cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases are also included, the yearly death toll rises to nearly 5 million and it's expected to keep on rising.

The newly revised Tobacco Atlas, which was released along with the new Cancer Atlas at an International Union Against Cancer conference has stated that an estimated 1.25 billion men and women currently smoke cigarettes, and that probably more than half of them would die from the habit. It was explained that the two atlases, which are filled with statistics are meant as reference guides for doctors, politicians, academics, students and attorneys who work on cancer and tobacco control.

The cancer atlas has showed that lung cancer remains the major illness among the 10.9 million new cases of cancer that is diagnosed each year, and experts feel that it is not likely to be dislodged from its perch at the helm. Seffrin said that in countries like China, where statistics show that 300 million men now smoke, lung cancer could eventually kill a million smokers a year.

The researchers and the authors of he atlases, have explained that a reduction in the consumption of cigarette by half could probably save almost about 300 million lives worldwide over the next 50 years, such an attempt would require an remarkable effort. Michael Eriksen, director of the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University said, "Even if smoking rates decline worldwide, there will be a constant or even slightly increasing number of smokers due to population increases."

But the health officials were also optimistic that the reduction in the use of tobacco would probably have the single largest effect on the rates of global cancer. They further explained that improving the nutrition and by reducing the infection by cancer-causing viruses and bacteria could also cut rates considerably. Dr. Judith Mackay, a World Health Organization senior policy adviser said, "We know with cancer, if we take action now, we can save 2 million lives a year by 2020 and 6.5 million by 2040."

It was explained that in 2002, in addition to almost 11 million new cancer cases worldwide, there were nearly 7 million cancer deaths. The officials anticipate that by 2020, there would probably be 16 million new cases a year with 10 million deaths.The cancer atlas has explained that an estimated 70% of those deaths would occur in developing countries. They explained that the number of new cases would be largely due to the increasing proportion of older people in the world. According to the Cancer Atlas though the risk of developing cancer is higher in the developed world cancers in developing countries is more often fatal.