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EU Programs Combat ‘Manmade’ Lung Cancer Epidemic

EU Programs Combat ‘Manmade’ Lung Cancer Epidemic

NEW YORK—The invention of the manufactured cigarette in Cuba in 1875
sparked "the manmade epidemic of lung cancer" and other
smoking-related diseases that emerged in the 20th century, said Prof. Peter
Boyle, director of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, European
Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.

The best hope for reducing the global burden of cancer today is to
discourage tobacco use, Prof. Boyle said at a symposium on living with cancer
sponsored by cancer patient support organizations Gilda’s Club Worldwide (New
York) and Marie Curie Cancer Care (Edinburgh, Scotland). Approximately one
third of all cancer deaths in developed countries could be avoided by the
elimination of cigarette smoking, he said.

The opportunity to dramatically reduce cancer burden by reducing smoking is
much more clearly defined than for other avoidable causes of cancer, Prof.
Boyle said. About 30% of all cancers are related to tobacco consumption. By
contrast, only about 3% of cancers are associated with alcohol. Another 35% are
probably associated with diet, though what particular aspects of diet are most
important is unclear.

In the European Union (EU), smoking directly causes 32% of all deaths in
middle-aged men and 10% in middle-aged women (although the proportion in women
is rising dramatically, tracking increased cigarette smoking among women in the
20th century).

Statistics from the United States tell a similar story. In 1990, smoking was
the direct cause of 17% of all deaths, and 26% of deaths among middle-aged
persons, Prof. Boyle said.

European Prevention Efforts

Recent experience suggests that targeted interventions to reduce cancer
burden can be successful when properly implemented and supported.

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