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Lung Cancer Awareness Week

Did you know that more Americans die each year from lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined?  Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of men and women.  The It's Time To Focus On Lung Cancer campaign sponsors Lung Cancer Awareness Week which begins today (November 17-21) to help raise awareness of this devastating disease. 

How big a problem is lung cancer?  Approximately 171,900 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in 2003, accounting for 13% of all new cancer cases.  An estimated 157,200 Americans will die in 2003 from lung cancer, accounting for 28% of all cancer deaths.  Of concern is that while overall cancer incidence rates are declining, lung cancer incidence rates among women continue to rise.  Between 1960 and 1990, deaths from lung cancer among women increased by more than 400%.  This year alone, an estimated 68,800 women in the U.S. will die from lung cancer.  In overall numbers, however, lung cancer still kills more men than women.  An estimated 88,400 men in the U.S. will die this year from lung cancer. 

Lung cancer is an even greater problem in the African American community.  Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among African American men and women, and it kills more African Americans than any other cancer.  African American men are at least 40% more likely to develop lung cancer than Caucasian men and more likely to die from it as well:  the mortality rate of African American males with lung cancer is 113.0 per 100,000 people, compared to 81.7 for Caucasian males.  The incidence of lung cancer among African American males is 124.1 per 100,000 people, compared to 82.9 of Caucasian males.  But African American women have the highest incidence rates of lung cancer (followed by Caucasians, Asian Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and American Indians/Native Alaskans).

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both of the lungs. While normal lung tissue cells reproduce and develop into healthy lung tissue, cancerous cells reproduce rapidly and never grow into normal lung tissue. Lumps of cancer cells become tumors which disrupt the lung's proper functioning.

Most (87%)-but not all-lung cancers are smoking related. However, not all smokers develop lung cancer. Quitting smoking reduces an individual's risk significantly, although former smokers remain at greater risk for lung cancer than people who never smoked. Exposure to other carcinogens such as asbestos and radon gas also increases an individual's risk, especially when combined with cigarette or cigar smoking.  Exposure to second hand smoke has been identified as another risk factor for lung cancer. 

While excellent treatments have been developed for lung cancer, the best treatment is prevention.  If you smoke, quit.  If you don't, don't start.  Teach-and preach-this to your children as well. 

Created: 11/17/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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