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Smoking Big Killer of Black Men

Tobacco linked to nearly two-thirds of cancer deaths among black men in U.S.

THURSDAY, May 13, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Overall cancer death rates for black American men could be cut by more than 60 percent if their exposure to smoking could be extinguished.

That's the claim of a study in the May issue of Preventive Medicine.

The University of California, Davis study helps explain the disparity in cancer death rates between black and white men in the United States.

"African-American men have had the highest cancer burden of any group in this country for decades. This study demonstrates, for the first time, that this excess cancer burden can be clearly linked to smoking. Smoke exposure appears responsible for African-American males' high overall cancer mortality rates, not just their lung cancers," study author Bruce Leistikow, an associate professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Using lung cancer death rates as a measure of smoke exposure, Leistikow analyzed the correlation between annual smoke exposure and non-lung cancer death rates for American black men from 1969 to 2000.

He found a close link between the smoke exposure rate and the non-lung cancer death rate. There was a 34 percent increase in the rate of non-lung cancer deaths among black men during the first 20 years of the study, which parallels a sharp rise in smoke exposure among black men.

As smoking declined during the final decade of the study, 1990 to 2000, the non-lung cancer death rate among black men decreased by 11 percent.

"During two decades of a steep rise, and subsequent decade of steep fall, U.S. black male smoke exposures and non-lung cancer death rates have moved in near-perfect lockstep up and down. The associations are very strong and have been consistent year-by-year for over 30 years," Leistikow said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer disparities.

SOURCE: University of California, Davis, Health System, news release, May 2004
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