Almost 800,000 Lung Cancer Deaths Prevented

Almost 800,000 Lung Cancer Deaths Prevented.

Changes in smoking behavior that began in the 1950s prevented close to 800,000 lung cancer deaths between 1975 and 2000. These results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in theUnited States. Each year, roughly 88,000 men and 73,000 women die of the disease.

Although lung cancer can develop in non-smokers, roughly 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking. Smoking is also linked with several other types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia.[1]

Since the 1950s, increased public awareness of the risks of smoking, coupled with tobacco control efforts such as higher cigarette taxes and restriction of smoking in public places, has reduced the rate of smoking in the US. To evaluate the effect that that this has had on lung cancer mortality, researchers developed statistical models that assessed number of lung cancer deaths prevented during the period 1975-2000.[2]

  • The changes in smoking behavior that began in the 1950s prevented an estimated 795,851 lung cancer deaths during 1975-2000.
  • In the year 2000 alone, more than 70,000 lung cancer deaths were prevented.

Although the prevention of almost 800,000 lung cancer deaths is good news, this number is a fraction of what could have been prevented if smoking rates had dropped even further. Currently, an estimated 21 percent of theUSpopulation continues to smoke. Encouraging smoking cessation, and preventing young people from picking up the habit in the first place, are still important parts of the fight against lung cancer.


[1] National Cancer Institute. Tobacco Statistics Snapshot. Last updated 11/12/2010.

[2] Moolgavkar SH, Holdford TF, Levy DT et al. Impact of reduced tobacco smoking on lung cancer mortality in the United States during 1975-2000. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Early online publication March 14, 2012.

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