NEW YORKThe 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(Drug information on 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.