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Lung Cancer's Racial Gap Narrowing

Anti-smoking campaigns aimed at teens reduce differences in incidence, deaths, research shows

THURSDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Efforts to prevent teens from smoking have helped narrow the racial disparity in lung cancer incidence and death rates among adults in the United States, researchers say.

Smoking causes most lung cancer cases in the United States. Lung cancer cases have been consistently higher in blacks than in whites at all ages. Since the 1970s, programs to reduce smoking by teens have proven highly effective.

In the new study, researchers analyzed 1992-2006 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute and found that lung cancer death rates among men decreased by 7.9 percent per year in blacks and 3.6 percent per year in whites. Among women, lung cancer death rates decreased by 4.8 percent per year in blacks and 1.9 percent per year in whites.

The increased risk of death from lung cancer among black men compared with whites decreased from more than 200 percent in 1992 to 28 percent in 2006. Among women, the risk of death from lung cancer was 47 percent higher among blacks than whites in 1992. That disparity had virtually disappeared by 2006, according to the researchers.

The study also found a reduction in the racial gap in lung cancer incidence rates. In 1992, black men were more than twice as likely to develop lung cancer as white men, while black women had a more than 75 percent greater risk than white women. By 2006, the risk was 30 percent higher for black men and 22 percent higher for black women.

The study is published in the December issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, which features a special focus on tobacco.

"This report is good news in that it shows the importance of preventing teens from smoking in narrowing or eliminating racial disparities in smoking-related diseases," study author Ahmedin Jemal, strategic director for cancer occurrence at the American Cancer Society, said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research. "The potential for eliminating racial or socioeconomic disparities from other lifestyle-related diseases, such as heart disease linked to obesity, is profound."

More information

The American Cancer Society explains the health risks associated with smoking and other tobacco use.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Dec. 3, 2009

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