The American Cancer Society has released a dire new study specifying that smoking kills more than the currently estimated 480,000 people on an annual basis. The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine included data from nearly a million U.S. men and women 55 or older enrolled in five U.S. cohort studies (the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-II, the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Women’s Health Initiative, and the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study).
The participants were followed for 10 years. During that time period 180,000 deaths occurred. The findings reflected the adverse impact of smoking on health. Death rates for smokers were three times higher than non smokers. The deaths were attributed to a number of diseases associated with smoking such as 12 types of cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, 17% of deaths were caused by causes of death not officially associated with smoking.
In particular, smoking was associated with at least a doubling of risk of death from several causes including renal failure, intestinal ischemia, hypertensive heart disease, infections, and various respiratory diseases other than COPD. Excess risk of death from each of these diseases declined after quitting smoking.
“The number of additional deaths potentially linked to cigarette smoking is substantial,” said Eric J. Jacobs, PhD, co-author of the study. “In our study, many excess deaths among smokers were from disease categories that are not currently established as caused by smoking, and we believe there is strong evidence that many of these deaths may have been caused by smoking. If the same is true nationwide, then cigarette smoking may be killing about 60,000 more Americans each year than previously estimated, a number greater than the total number who die each year of influenza or liver disease.”
Smoking and mortality – beyond established causes, Brian D. Carter, et al., N Engl J Med, doi:10.1056/NEJMsa1407211, published online 12 February 2015, abstract.