Lung cancer mortality expected to decrease over the next half century

“Tobacco control efforts implemented since the 1960s will continue to reduce lung cancer rates well into the next half-century. Additional prevention and cessation efforts will be required to sustain and expand these gains to further reduce the lung cancer burden in the United States”: this is the conclusion of a study just published in the Annals of Internal Medicineby Rafael Meza, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, and colleagues from the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) lung cancer consortium at Georgetown University, the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the University of Michigan, and Yale University.

They used four independent models based on data on smoking from 1964 to 2015 and lung cancer mortality data from 1969 to 2010, and estimated that in the near future age-adjusted lung cancer mortality in the United States could drop by 79%, falling from 135,000 in 2015 to 50,000 in 2065. Annual lung cancer deaths could also decrease by 63% over the same period

With current trends, by 2065, around 20 million men and women (aged 30 – 84 years) will still be smoking, and 4.4 million Americans could die from lung cancer. “Continued policies and measures to discourage the uptake of smoking in youth and to promote cessation among current users are thus needed to retain the gains that have already been made, with additional efforts required to further decrease the toll of tobacco smoking on health,” researchers wrote. According to their prediction, smoking prevalence will decrease from 19.7% in 2015 (21.6% in men and 17.8% in women) to 7.5% in 2065 (8.9% in men and 6.0% in women) and by the mid-2040s, lung cancer rates by sex will be almost equal: “This reflects the convergence in smoking behaviors between men and women as current cohorts with similar smoking patterns by sex become the bulk of the smoking population” the researchers commented. However, “Cancer deaths among never-smokers are projected to increase due to population growth and an increase in the proportion of people who have never smoked,” said Meza.

Lung cancer will remain the number one cause of cancer death globally, and therefore smoking will continue to be an important determinant of risk and a major public health problem. E-cigarettes or polytobacco usage effect on smoking prevalence were not considered in Meza’s article, as well as the potential impact of lung screening, but if adopted could additionally decrease lung cancer mortality overall, according to the authors.

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