Three in 10 cancer deaths in the U.S. are still caused by smoking despite the rate of cigarette use among adults reaching historic lows, a study finds.
Smoking was found to be the cause of 29% of deaths from the 12 cancers recognized by the U.S. Surgeon General as being directly caused by smoking in adults 35 years and older in 2010.
Overall, the proportion of all cancer deaths attributed to smoking was estimated to be about 32%, according to the American Cancer Society study published online last month in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.
Estimates did not include additional potential cancer deaths caused by secondhand smoke or other types of tobacco use, including cigars, pipes, or smokeless tobacco.
“Cigarette smoking causes a large proportion of cancer deaths in the contemporary United States,” the study concluded. “Reducing smoking prevalence as rapidly as possible should be a top priority for the US public health efforts to prevent cancer deaths.”
The study results come at a time when the adult smoking rate has reached the lowest levels ever recorded. The rate reportedly fell from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The total number of smokers in the U.S. dropped during that same period, from 45 million in 2005 to 42 million in 2013. Despite the decline, CDC researchers noted cigarette smoking remained high among certain groups, including low-income households, Americans of multiple races, American Indian/Alaskan Natives, those living in Midwest and southern states, and among the gay, lesbian and bisexual population.
Cigarettes remain the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 480,000 Americans annually. Costs associated with smoking are estimated at $289 billion year, which include $133 billion in direct medical costs and $156 billion a year in lost productivity, according to the CDC.
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