As we mark World Cancer Day, let’s take a moment to envision a day in the future when cancer is no longer ever a death sentence. As our National Cancer Institute presses forward on treatment and research under its Cancer Moonshot initiative, we should also continue looking at ways to prevent cancer. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That 16-1 ratio is probably understating the benefits of focusing on prevention. We need to look at the causes of cancer, and work to remove them.
It is no surprise that one of the leading causes of cancer is tobacco use. Tobacco is responsible for 1/3 of all cancer deaths. And it is a risk factor in nearly all types of cancer. See our graphic for a sample list of cancers caused by tobacco.
Now for the good news: We can cut the cancer rate by 1/3 if we eliminate tobacco use.
And we know how to do it. No research required; no long drug trials.
In 2016, 1,685,210 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. For over a third, it is terminal. So if there had been no tobacco use in 2016, that number would have been 561,737 lower, and 187,246 people would not have to say goodbye to their loved ones.
That’s more people than live in Knoxville, TN, saved in one year.
Sadly, 2016 has come and gone, and we’re too late to save those people. But this tragedy will be repeated every year until we can cure the tobacco epidemic. Today of all days, we rededicate ourselves to this goal.