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Up in Smoke Men and Lung Cancer

image of a man smoking a cigarette

contributed by Vanessa Rowen, R.N., Cancer AnswerLine

Men, in particular, face a very high risk of lung cancer. It is the third leading cause of death, right behind prostate and colon cancer. Overall, lung cancer is also the third most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. There are a number of risk factors that contribute to these statistics. Not surprisingly the biggest risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, which results in approximately 85% of all U.S. lung cancer cases. Some other risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Length of time exposed to tobacco smoke
  • Number of years since quitting
  • Occupational exposure
  • Radon
  • Family history
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Smoking cessation substantially reduces a person’s risk for developing and dying of lung cancer. Evidence detailed in the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report suggests that there is a decline in smoking related to improved tobacco control. Though this is good news the flip side of these reports are that there is increased use of E-Cigarettes (electronic cigarettes). This may be as a result of the expanding print and media coverage touting the E-Cigarette as the newest treatment in helping people to stop smoking.

I had never heard of the ‘E-Cigarette’ until I was involved in a community service project in Monroe, Michigan. It seems that there is a ban on these types of products within the 10 mile radius surrounding public schools. Our mission was to seek out stores that continued to offer these products in the restricted area and report this back to the community service office. It amazed me what type of products are offered for those who want to quit smoking, but still crave the nicotine, mostly high school students that cannot smoke on school campuses or adult employees that can no longer smoke on their work campus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, reports that the electronic cigarette may contain nicotine or other chemicals. Often times these products look like cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as pens and USB memory sticks.

All this to say that lung cancer, the third leading killer in men, is still a very big concern in the health care industry. While there are options to help 'fix' the problem, like the electronic cigarette, this solution also comes with its own problems. Routine screening for current smokers is another option.

What we really need is better education for our youth, and other alternatives to bring home the message of NOT starting to smoke in the first place, and stressing the damage that smoking can cause in the long run, before they even pick up their first cigarette.

Continue learning about the risks of smoking and how to quit:

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