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Tobacco and cancer: recent epidemiological evidence.

Vineis P; Alavanja M; Buffler P; Fontham E; Franceschi S; Gao YT; Gupta PC; Hackshaw A; Matos E; Samet J; Sitas F; Smith J; Stayner L; Straif K; Thun MJ; Wichmann HE; Wu AH; Zaridze D; Peto R; Doll R
J Natl Cancer Inst 2004 Jan; 96(2):99-106
During the 1950s, the evidence was clearly sufficient to establish the carcinogenicity of tobacco smoking (1). By the end of the 1950s, convincing evidence linking smoking with lung cancer and other cancers had been obtained from case-control and cohort studies, carcinogens had been identified in tobacco smoke, and cigarette smoke condensate had been shown to cause tumors when painted on the skin of mice. Since then, the numbers of deaths attributable to tobacco smoking have sharply increased, reflecting the heavy smoking patterns of previous decades. It has been estimated that tobacco smoking is currently responsible for approximately 30% of all cancer deaths in developed countries, and that if current smoking patterns persist, an epidemic of cancer attributable to tobacco smoking is expected to occur in developing countries (2). In addition, smoking causes even more deaths from vascular, respiratory, and other diseases than from cancer, so that, in total, tobacco smoking is estimated to account for approximately 4-5 million deaths a year worldwide. This number is projected to increase to approximately 10 million a year by 2030. Thus, if current smoking patterns continue, there will be more than 1 billion deaths attributable to tobacco smoking in the 21st century compared with approximately 100 million deaths in the 20th century (2). The only other causes of disease with such rapidly increasing impact are those associated with human immunodeficiency virus infection and, perhaps, obesity in Western countries (2). In this commentary, we review the evidence regarding the carcinogenicity of tobacco smoke that has accumulated during the last 16 years since the publication of Monograph 38 of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 1986 (3) to the updating of that monograph (Monograph 83) in 2002 (4). The evidence now available shows that tobacco smoke is a multipotent carcinogenic mixture that can cause cancer in many different organs. In addition, exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke (i.e., involuntary or passive smoking by persons who do not smoke) is also carcinogenic for the human lung. This commentary, written by the epidemiologists who participated in the 2002 IARC Working Group for the preparation of the IARC Monograph 83 (4), is based on the substantial body of evidence reviewed for that purpose. It represents, however, solely the views of the authors.
Tobacco-smoke; Tobacco-dusts; Tobacco; Cancer; Epidemiology; Carcinogenicity; Smoking; Lung-cancer; Case-studies; Pulmonary-system-disorders; Respiratory-system-disorders; Cigarette-smoking; Tumors
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Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division