Lung Cancer Responsible for Majority of Cancer Deaths

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, killing 160,390 people in 2007, according to the Lung Cancer Alliance.

Roughly 85 percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis, the Washington Post reported Dec. 28.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute reported that tobacco was responsible for 90 percent of lung-cancer deaths in 2007, with death rates for men falling from 1990 to 2005. Lung-cancer death rates for women spiked in 1998 and have remained at that elevated rate.

Researchers are looking for new forms of early detection, since cancer has already spread outside the lungs at the time of detection in 15 to 30 percent of cases, according to the National Cancer Institute. New techniques involving spiral CT’s are being tested as they can detect tumors under 1 centimeter in size.

“We all have our fingers crossed that the trial will show there is a screening procedure that will make a difference,” said professor Tim Byers, who is the deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center “We’re probably about two to three years away from knowing the results of that trial.”

Scientists contend that policy changes like increasing cigarette taxes and smoking bans are some of the most effective ways to reduce smoking rates in the United States.

“We know those tactics work, but, for political reasons, they’re not being fully applied,” said Michael Thun, vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research for the American Cancer Society. “If you avoid smoking, you have avoided the Mount Everest of avoidable health hazards.”

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