(HealthDay News) — Despite the positive impact of changes in smoking behavior on the number of lung cancer deaths in the United States, many additional cases could potentially have been averted by complete tobacco control, according to research published online March 14 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Suresh H. Moolgavkar, M.D., Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues formed a consortium of six groups of investigators to estimate the number of lung cancer deaths that were prevented in the United States between 1975 and 2000 as a result of changes in smoking behavior. The estimate was based on independent models built using cohort, case-control, or registry data and adjusted to overall mortality.

Using these data models, the investigators estimated that approximately 795,851 lung cancer deaths were averted during the study period. In 2000 alone, approximately 70,218 lung cancer deaths were prevented. However, these numbers represent only about 32 percent of the lung cancer deaths that could have been averted over the entire study period, 38 percent in the years 1991 to 2000, and 44 percent of those that could have been prevented in the year 2000, had tobacco control been effective in eliminating smoking.

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“Our results indicate that only approximately 30 percent of the total lung cancer deaths that could have been averted had tobacco control been complete were actually averted,” the authors write. “Clearly, further reductions in smoking rates will be required to reduce lung cancer incidence and mortality rates substantially.”

One author disclosed consulting relationships with the RAND Corporation and Verner LifeSciences; another author disclosed a consulting relationship with GE Healthcare.

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