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September 28, 2005

Reducing the Risk of Lung Cancer

JAMA. 2005;294(12):1550-1551. doi:10.1001/jama.294.12.1550

The costs of tobacco in both health and economic terms are enormous. Cigarette smoking causes approximately 5 million premature deaths each year around the world secondary to cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.1 In the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women. More than 170 000 new cases of lung cancer (13% of all cancer diagnoses) will be diagnosed this year, and more than 160 000 deaths from lung cancer will occur (28% of all cancer deaths).2 The 5-year survival for all patients who receive a diagnosis of lung cancer is an abysmal 14%, and even those who are diagnosed and definitively treated at the earliest stage (IA) have only a 67% 5-year survival.3 In the United States, direct medical costs for the treatment of lung cancer alone are approximately $5 billion annually.4 Years of research and innovative treatment for lung cancer have yielded improved amelioration of symptoms but little increase in overall survival. Clearly, the best treatment for lung cancer is prevention. Since smoking is responsible for 87% of deaths from lung cancer,2 tobacco avoidance or cessation is absolutely crucial for making any real progress in fighting this disease.