Tag Archives: Cancer

Not surprising — Southerners most likely to die from smoking-related cancers

Auto Racing: NASCAR Heinz Southern 500: Dick Trickle (84) smoking cigarette on track before race at Darlington Raceway.  Darlington, SC 9/3/1989 CREDIT: George Tiedemann (Photo by George Tiedemann /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X38788 TK3 R6 F13 )
Getty Images, obviously. A totally non-stereotypical depiction of Southern cigarette smoking.

This is a bit from the “Well … duh” department. A new study from the American Cancer Society shows that Southern states have the highest death rates from cancers caused by smoking.

Forty percent of the cancer deaths for men in Arkansas are smoking -related cancers, while 29 percent of the cancer deaths for women in Kentucky are for smoking-related cancers, according to the ACS.

Nationally, roughly about 29 percent of all cancer deaths are blamed on smoking-related cancers, primarily lung cancer.

The study also looked at other cancers thought to be linked to smoking, such as liver, throat, pancreas, colon and kidney, as well as leukemia.

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Lung cancer rates. Darker is deadlier.

Most of the 10 highest states for cancer death rates are in the South, while most of the 10 lowest are in the West, where smoking rates are low. The lowest state was Utah, with 22 percent of cancer deaths among men  attributable to smoking and 11 percent for women. Utah, mostly because smoking is a sin among Mormons, has the lowest smoking rate in the nation. California and Hawaii are the next two lowest, I believe.

What do almost all Southern states have in common? Low cigarettes taxes and virtually no statewide smoking bans (Only two or three Southern states even bother to ban smoking in restaurants, much less bars.). They also spend the least on tobacco education. And gee, what a coincidence, they tend to have the highest smoking rates (Kentucky and West Virginia keep trading back and forth over which state has the highest smoking rate).

The average cigarette tax in the South is 49 cents a pack, compared to about $1.80 a pack in the rest of the nation.

The South by far has a much higher lung cancer rate than the rest of the country. Add to that a high rate of diabetes (which probably has to do with the Southern diet, but smoking is a contributor to diabetes) and it’s simply not a very healthy part of the country.

I want to make clear I’m not making fun of the South here. Lung cancer is no laughing matter, no matter what part of the country it’s happening in.

 

 

Tobacco-growing, tobacco-smoking Kentucky leads the nation in cancer rate

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Kentucky tobacco farm

Not the least bit surprising, but something to think about when it comes to tobacco control.

This is why people in tobacco control care about the issue; ultimately it comes down to people dying from tobacco.

When most people think of Kentucky, they think of horse country, the Kentucky Derby, and idyllic bluegrass hills. But, there’s a terrible dark side to that bucolic landscape. According to this USA Today story, Kentucky has the dubious distinction of being No. 1 in the nation for having the worst cancer rate. The biggest reason why? Lung cancer. Lung cancer is the third-most common form of cancer in the U.S. (behind breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men). However, while lung cancer represents about 13 percent of all cancers, it also represents 27 percent of all cancer deaths. That’s the most … by a LOT. Lung cancer kills more people than colon, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancer combined. It continues to be one of the most, if not the most, difficult form of cancer to treat.

According to USA Today, the rate for lung cancer deaths in Kentucky is 50 percent higher than the national average. From the article:

Lung cancer incidence per 100,000 people: 92.4, compared with 60.4 nationally. Mortality per 100,000: 68.8 — around 120 in the hardest-hit Appalachian counties — compared with 45 nationally.

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Kentucky smoking rates, by county

Kentucky has a notoriously high smoking rate. It was the highest in the nation until recently, but now it is second highest in the U.S. at 26.5 percent, (only West Virginia is higher) considerably higher than the national average. Kentucky’s smoking rate was over 30 percent as recently as 10 years ago. The national average, according to this article, has dropped all the down to 15.2 percent (I haven’t seen that figure widely reported; I saw 16.8 percent a few weeks ago.). Kentucky also has a higher than normal death rate from breast, colon and cervical cancers. That might be partly attributable to smoking. Kentucky also has a ridiculously low cigarette tax at 60 cents a pack, one of the lowest in the nation.  The national average is over $1.50 a pack. There is also no statewide indoor smoking ban, though several large cities in Kentucky do ban smoking indoors. These factors help to encourage smoking. They really do. Every state that imposes a smoking ban and/or raises its cigarette tax sees its smoking rate go down. Of course, Kentucky just elected a conservative Republican as its governor, so don’t expect a cigarette tax increase any time soon.

From the article

For many years, Kentucky has had a quarter of adults smoking,” said oncologist Dr. Goetz Kloecker, a lung cancer specialist with University of Louisville Physicians. “I have patients who started puffing at 8, 9 and 10 years old…It’s part of the culture.”

Because of that culture, “cigarettes are still cheaper than in other places,” Kloecker added. “If you go to Chicago or New York, there are fewer teenagers starting to smoke. The higher the costs, the lower the smoking rate.”

TOBACCO-farmsGrowing (2)

One of the reasons smoking is so ingrained in the culture is Kentucky is one of the leading tobacco-growing states. Kentucky has a lot fewer tobacco farmers than it once did (wow, there were 56,000 tobacco farms in Kentucky in 1992), but it is still second in the U.S. behind North Carolina in the level of tobacco produced. And in fact, North Carolina and Kentucky absolutely dominate the market with over 70 percent of the tobacco grown in the U.S. coming from those two states. (Interestingly, North Carolina actually has a statewide smoking ban and a relatively low smoking rate for a Southern state at 20.2 percent in 2013 — likely lower than that today.)

Other environmental factors are playing a role. Kentucky has a high level of radon in homes and especially in the Appalachian region, residents have high levels of chromium and arsenic in their systems. (Probably from mining operations and groundwater contamination.).

Other factors are mentioned by USA Today, such as poor health screenings in the state and obesity, but the high smoking rate is the biggest factor, no doubt.

Cancer death rate keeps dropping; lung cancer death rate way down

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Good news. The cancer death rate in the U.S. continues to drop, well down from its peak in 1991, according to the American Cancer Society.

According to the ACS, between the 20-year period from 1991 to 2011, the cancer death rate dropped 22 percent in the U.S. For one big main reason — the decline of smoking and smoking-related lung cancers among men (Remember, lung cancer is far away the most deadly cancer; roughly 25 percent of all cancer deaths are from lung cancer alone.).

According to the ACS, the rate of lung cancer deaths among U.S. men dropped a whopping 36 percent from 1990 to 2011. Among women, the decline hasn’t been as dramatic, unfortunately (in fact, lung cancer deaths for women actually went up quite a few years in the 1990s.). From 2002 to 2011, the lung cancer death rate for women dropped 11 percent in the U.S.

Breast, prostate and colon cancer death rates also dropped.

The decline of lung cancer deaths hasn’t been as dramatic in the South, because these states tend to have high smoking rates. For instance, the number of lung cancer deaths in Kentucky is three times the rate as in Utah, which has the lowest smoking rate in the U.S.

Good news everyone! Cancer death rate drops 20 percent in 20 years; Lung cancer death rate down 34 percent

professor farnsworthI wrote about this several months ago. The cancer death rate in the U.S. has dropped dramatically in the past few years, especially for lung cancer.

Three reasons:

1) Better treatment

2) Better detection

and a big one

3) a drop in the smoking rate

According to this study from the American Cancer Society:

An estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases are projected for 2014, including some 586,000 deaths, according to the new report from the American Cancer Society. And cancer remains the second-most common cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease.

The good news in those grim figures is that the rate of death from cancer has fallen from about 25 per every 10,000 people in 1991 to about 17 per 10,000 in 2010. That translates into about 1.3 million cancer deaths avoided, including nearly 953,000 men and nearly 388,000 women.

Lung cancer remains the top killer for both sexes, followed by prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women. But largely because of declines in smoking, the lung cancer death rate dropped by 34 percent in 20 years.

I’ve actually had this argument with some smokers’ rights idiots, claiming “why is lung cancer going up if smoking rates are going down.” Well, I will have to remember this link if I ever run into another one. Lung cancer death rate down 34 percent in 20 years awesome. Lung cancer used to be pretty much a death sentence, less than 20 percent survival rate, but that’s improved dramatically in the last 20 years due to better treatment and better detection.

I also wonder if another factor if a higher percentage of people getting lung cancer are people getting lung cancer NOT caused by smoking. Remember, not all lung cancer is caused by smoking — about 15 percent of the people who get lung cancer never smoked a cigarette in their lives. And smoking is believed to cause a specific kind of lung cancer. There are other forms of lung cancer that don’t appear to be tied to smoking. So that could be a factor, too. Perhaps because of fewer smokers and fewer people getting lung cancer, period, that 15 percent figure has become higher. And these other forms of lung cancer may be more treatable than the cancer caused by smoking. Just a thought. No proof or evidence, just speculation.

The stigma of lung cancer — do smokers “deserve” lung cancer? (No!)

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A very interesting opinion piece that I can personally relate to, about the continuing stigma of lung cancer.

I have on a number of occasions no matter how incredibly hard I try to bend over backward to not attack smokers or act superior to smokers either online or in real life, been accused of being down on smokers. I think part of this is because many smokers deep down inside put up with constant stigma over their smoking and frankly, get understandably defensive about it, because hey, we all have some bad habits and none of us are perfect.

Anyway, that stigma also applies to lung cancer. Lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer; more people die of lung cancer in the U.S. than the next four types of cancer — combined. Smoking is in fact the primary cause of lung cancer — about 85 percent of the people who get lung cancer are either smokers or former smokers.

But, that also means that 15 percent of those people with lung cancer are nonsmokers (20 percent of women who get lung cancer are nonsmokers). Lung cancer not only has an environmental component, it has a genetic component. There is a reason why only 10 percent of smokers die of lung cancer. It’s bad luck+a bad habit.

Dr. Lecia V. Sequist, (a medical oncologist at  Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, an associate professor of medicine Harvard Medical School. and a member of the LUNGevity Foundation Scientific Advisory Board), writes on CNN.com, about the stigma of lung cancer and the mentality of that people who die of lung cancer “did it to themselves.” The stigma has resulted in a lot of grant monies and donations going toward finding cures for cancers other than lung cancer.

It’s something I can relate to because I have been very guilty of hearing about someone dying of lung cancer, and then immediately blurting out, “were they a smoker?” I really, really try not to do that anymore.

Dr. Sequist writes:

Tell a friend or colleague that your aunt just found out she has lung cancer. Almost always the response will be, “Did she smoke?” Then tell someone else that your aunt just found out she has breast cancer, or colon cancer, or any other type of cancer you can think of. This time the response will be pure sympathy, without any blame attached.

I don’t think people necessarily do this for a bad reason. I think it’s a normal reaction of “well it couldn’t happen to me … I don’t smoke.”

This is interesting, according to to Dr. Sequist, (and I have never seen these numbers before and am still digesting them) 60 percent of new lung cancer cases are among nonsmokers and former smokers — not current smokers. Wow, that a high number (remember that 15 percent number I quoted earlier). What that tells me is a lot of people are acknowledging that smoking is really bad for them, quitting, and then 10 years later being diagnosed with lung cancer. That is one of the cruelties of lung cancer. Even if you do the right thing and quit, your risk of lung cancer decreases … but it is still higher than a person who never smoked.

And as far as how smoking is affecting funding, this paragraph from Dr. Sequist:

Unfortunately, the stigma associated with lung cancer has translated to a massive inequality in research funding. When analyzing the combined 2012 cancer research dollars granted by federal organizations, for every woman who dies of breast cancer, more than $26,000 in federal research funding is devoted to breast cancer research. But for every woman who dies of lung cancer, just over $1,000 federal dollars are invested. The difference is staggering.

So, basically breast cancer is receiving 26 times more funding per cancer case than lung cancer among women. Wow.

As far as the attitude that people who smoke and die and lung cancer getting what they deserve, all I can say is how is your glass house? Are you overweight? Do you drink? Smoke pot? Take prescription drugs? Last perfect person died 2,000 years ago. (Even on this article, there is some snot-nosed troll spending hours pissing on smokers with lung cancer. One of the reasons I don’t comment on CNN stories.)

I watched my dad slowly drown in his own bodily fluids at the age of 49. I can’t imagine a worse way to go, honestly. No one deserves that. No one. Not Adolph Hitler, not anyone. So, no, no one “deserves” lung cancer.

New study: Cancer death rates in America dropping dramatically!

Great, great news.

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According to a new study released by the American Cancer Society, cancer death rates have dropped drastically over the past 20 years — 23 percent for men, and 15 percent for women.

Two big reasons — better screening and treatment, and a third reason obviously — a LOT fewer people smoking (Down from 50 to 60 percent in the 1960s to 20 percent today).

Get this, 40 percent of the overall decline in cancer deaths among men (and 34 percent among women) is caused specifically by the decline just in lung cancer deaths (Lung cancer is by far the biggest cancer killer — the next four cancer killers — colon, prostate, pancreas and breast cancer, kill fewer people per year than lung cancer alone.)

Still, even in 2012, about one-third of the cancer deaths in America will be caused due to smoking (and 160,000 of the 577,000 estimated cancer deaths in 2012 will be lung cancer, about 28 percent), according to the ACS. Another third will be caused by obesity and poor nutrition.

From the report. Estimated cancer deaths in 2012. I put this here just to illustrate the damage done by tobacco.

Total cancer deaths 2012 estimated: 577,000

1) Lung cancer 160,000 — 28 percent of all cancer deaths (85 percent smokers or former smokers)

2) Colon 51,000

3) Breast 39,000 (suggestions tobacco increases risk)

4) Pancreas 37,000 (Definite links to tobacco, 50 percent smokers or former smokers)

5) Prostate 28,000

6) Leukemia 23,500 (suggestions of tobacco increasing risk of certain kinds of leukemia)

7) Liver 20,500

8) Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 19,000

9) Bladder 15,000 (Definite links to tobacco, 50 percent smokers or former smokers)

10) Esophagus 15,000 (strong links to tobacco)