COLUMBIA, Mo. ― According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with lung cancer, and more than 150,000 die from the disease.
University of Missouri Health Care physician Vamsi Guntur, M.D., would like to reduce those numbers by raising awareness about the relationship between smoking and lung cancer.
“Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in the U.S.,” said Guntur, a pulmonologist at University Hospital and Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. “But lung cancer is not just limited to those who smoke.”
Guntur points out that another major cause of lung cancer is exposure to second-hand smoke. Nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke are approximately 20 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers who are not exposed to second-hand smoke.
“Even if a person doesn’t smoke but lives with a smoker or works in an environment where cigarette smoke is prevalent, such as a casino, there is a higher risk for that person to develop lung cancer,” Guntur said.
Although there are additional factors that can contribute to some lung cancers, such as exposure to asbestos, radon gas or industrial-related toxic materials, tobacco smoke is the main cause of the disease in the U.S.
“Lung cancer is largely a preventable disease,” Guntur said. “Yet it’s one of the most common cancers. It tends to cause more deaths than breast, colorectal, prostate and pancreatic cancers combined. So when you think about how many people die each year from a disease that is very preventable, it really is tragic.”
Guntur recommends reducing your risk for developing lung cancer by:
• Not smoking, or quitting smoking
• Avoiding second-hand smoke
• Following health and safety guidelines when working with or around toxic materials
“In order to understand lung cancer, you need to know about smoking,” said Guntur. “In the U.S., I think this is the biggest area we need to focus on. And we can do this by getting to a point where smoking rates are so low that we’re not seeing lung cancer as a consequence of smoking. That would be the ultimate goal.”
For help to quit smoking, contact Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at (573) 884-1509.