November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and this is a great time to remind people about the dangerous cancer risks caused by tobacco use.
Lung cancer is the most preventable type of cancer, but also one of the most deadly.
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 220,000 new cases of lung cancer by the end of 2011, and nearly 90 percent of those will be smokers. Once diagnosed, only 15 percent of lung cancer patients will live five years or more. But smokers aren’t the only ones at risk. Exposure to secondhand smoke can increase lung cancer risk by between 20 and 30 percent. Locally, 890 North Dakotans lose their lives to tobacco-related diseases each year.
As if lung cancer isn’t bad enough, smoking also increases the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, as well as pneumonia and esophageal, laryngeal, oral and throat cancers.
While quitting will eventually reduce the risk for smokers, the best way to minimize the risk of lung cancer and other pulmonary diseases is to never start smoking. People who have never smoked have a much lower risk of cancer than even former smokers.
North Dakota is fortunate to have a comprehensive tobacco prevention program that educates people about the harms of tobacco use. Hopefully, with increased tobacco awareness, lung cancer will become a rare disease in North Dakota.
By Jim Hughes