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Lung Cancer, Tobacco Hit Minorities Hard

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) marked Minority Cancer Awareness Week by reporting that lung cancer mortality and incidence rates in Wisconsin show that some racial and ethnic groups are disproportionately at risk for lung cancer, with tobacco largely to blame.

“Lung cancer is still Wisconsin’s leading cancer killer and the rates in minority populations are significantly higher,” said DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake. “While smoking rates for most racial groups have declined since 1990, the African American smoking rate remains stubbornly high.”

During 2001-2005, African Americans had the highest lung cancer incidence rates of any racial group, and African American males had about an 80 percent higher incidence rate than white males. American Indians had the second highest lung cancer incidence, with a higher rate among males than females.

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African-Americans also experience the highest mortality rate, with American Indians second, and whites third. The most recent statistics from the DHS 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System put the African American smoking rate at 30.1 percent compared to 18.8 percent for whites.

According to the American Lung Association, tobacco use and exposure are responsible for more than 85 percent of lung cancer cases in the United States.

“Preventing tobacco use and encouraging current tobacco users to quit will greatly reduce the number of people getting and dying from lung cancer,” said Secretary Karen Timberlake. “There is good evidence from other states that Governor Doyle’s proposals to increase the cigarette sales tax and implement a statewide workplace smoking ban will further reduce smoking rates in Wisconsin.”

With some cancers, early detection is essential to successful treatment. However, prevention – not screening – is the most effective strategy for lung cancer.

“Everyone should know that smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke increases their risk for lung cancer, a disease that kills far more often than it is cured.” Timberlake said. “Screening isn’t the answer. Quitting smoking and eliminating exposure to tobacco smoke will rapidly lower your risk of lung cancer.”