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Lung Cancer: Still the Biggest Cancer Killer, by Far
Date:12/27/2008

While researchers make advances, quitting smoking remains your best bet

SATURDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- It's the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, killing more people each year than breast, prostate, colon, liver, kidney and melanoma cancers combined.

It's typically discovered too late to be treated successfully, with about 85 percent of victims dead within five years of diagnosis.

And nine out of 10 cases of the disease are tied to a single behavior -- smoking.

Lung cancer killed 160,390 people in 2007, according to the Lung Cancer Alliance. That's an average of 439 people a day.

And tobacco caused 90 percent of those deaths, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

"Smoking is the most lethal legal activity in our society," said Dr. James Mulshine, a professor of internal medicine and associate provost for research at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Researchers are trying to find better ways to detect lung cancer and to find genetic warning signs, or markers, that could predict who might be at increased risk.

But doctors say anti-smoking measures have proven the only effective weapon against the disease.

"At this point, the progress in decreasing lung cancer death rates is due solely to men quitting smoking since the early 1990s," said Dr. Michael Thun, vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research for the American Cancer Society.

The death rate for men fell from 90.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 1990 to 69.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2005, Thun said. But the death rate for women peaked in 1998 at 41 deaths per 100,000 and has remained in that range ever since, he said.

"Lung cancer rates have been falling in men since 1991, since men began to quit smoking," Thun said. "They have leveled off in women, but are not declining. Women started smoking later than men in our society and are having more
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