Half of Cancer Deaths are Caused by Smoking, Research Says

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Nearly half of all deaths from tobacco-related cancers may be directly related to cigarette smoking, US research suggests.


Breast Cancer Awareness Pink RibbonThe research also found that while the largest percentage of deaths linked to smoking were cancers of the trachea, bronchus, larynx, and the lungs roughly half of the mortalities were from tumors of the esophagus, oral cavity, and bladder – all caused by smoking or tobacco use.

The researchers estimated that more than 160,000 out of the 345,962 cancer deaths in the US in 2011, ages 35 years and older, were linked to smoking.

To get this number, the research used a standard formula to compute the proportion of cases of a particular type of cancer that would not have developed if not because of smoking.

They then evaluated data from face-to-face interview and national surveys regarding the tobacco habits and health history of the respondents. The research also take into consideration the race, age, alcohol use, and education of the subjects.

The research suggests that considering the smoking habits in a particular population and the percentage of cancer cases attributable to smoking, roughly 126,000 of bronchus, trachea and lung cancer deaths, which represents 80 percent, were all connected to smoking. So as the 50% and 45% of esophagus tumor and bladder malignancy deaths respectively.

The researchers also blame smoking for the 17% of kidney, 20% of stomach, 22% of cervical, and 24% of liver and bile cancer deaths.

However, the research were only limited to a largely more educated and less racially varied respondents compared to the whole US population. There is also the possibility that the research underestimated cancer deaths connected to smoking. The data on passive smoking exposure was not available, which may have added 5% of lung cancer deaths.


In a separate study, researchers monitored more than 3,000 smokers for a year after lung cancer diagnosis to see if their physician’s smoking cessation support increases their odds of successfully quitting. The result suggests that mere advice or encouragement to quit smoking from physicians may not be enough to motivate smokers to quit after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Smokers who received support such as smoking cessation medication and referrals to counseling were 40% more likely to quit smoking. Follow-up care to look into the smokers’ progress increases the odds to 46%. This is understandable because smokers are subjected to physical, emotional, and environmental barriers when quitting smoking.


Family and friend support can help smokers, predominantly those heavy smokers, to increase their confidence. Counseling and medication assistance can as well help improve their chance of successfully quitting smoking for good.


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