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Game changer in lung cancer

More people die of lung cancer each year than colon, prostate, and breast cancer combined. Nationwide, about 160,000 Americans a year die from the disease. One key problem with lung cancer is that it is usually detected too late.

But now, for the first time, a large study shows that using CT scans to screen smokers and ex-smokers for lung cancer can reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent – the first clear evidence that a screening test may help fight the nation’s top cancer killer.

The national study looked at 53,000 heavy smokers, age 55 – 74, and found that smokers who were screened with low-dose spiral CT had 20 percent fewer deaths than smokers screened with chest x-ray.*

“The finding that a screening test can reduce lung cancer death among people with a history of heavy smoking is an important one – because it has the potential to save lives among those at highest risk for lung cancer,” said Roberta Cahill, Health Equity Director, American Cancer Society and Yankton Sioux tribal member in Pierre, S.D. “But the single best way to prevent lung cancer is to never start smoking, and if you’re already smoking, to quit permanently.”

Smoking facts Smoking remains the world’s most preventable cause of death. Smoking accounts for more than 400,000 premature deaths – including about 50,000 in non-smokers. 30 percent of cancer deaths, including 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, can be attributed to smoking. Smoking accounts for more than $193 billion in health care expenditures and productivity losses every year.

To help smokers give up the habit, the American Cancer Society is encouraging participation nationwide in its Great American Smokeout on Nov. 18, a day when people around the country will be throwing out their cigarettes for good.

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Smokers who want to quit can call the American Cancer Society Quit for Life program operated by Free & Clear at (800) 227-2345 for smoking cessation and coaching services, which increase your chances of quitting for good. The society also has online tools at, such as a crave button and a Quit Clock to help smokers plan towards kicking the habit for good.

Research shows that smokers who quit, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke. Smokers who quit reduce their risk of lung cancer – 10 years after quitting, the lung cancer death rate is half that of a continuing smokers. Quitting also lowers risk for heart disease and stroke.

According to the American Cancer Society, 36 million people in America still smoke daily, and quitting may help them celebrate more birthdays. For more information, call the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345.

About the American Cancer Society

At the American Cancer Society, our vision is a world with less cancer and more birthdays. As part of that vision, we are fighting cancer in every community, for every family, to help save lives. We recognize each community has different needs and we’re here to help everyone stay well and get well, to find cures, and to fight back against cancer. For cancer information, contact us at or (800) 227-2345.

Charlotte Hofer is public relations manager for the American Cancer Society in South Dakota. She is a member of the Native American Journalists Association and is a regular contributor to Indian Country Today. Contact her at

*The National Cancer Institute released early findings from the National Lung Screening Trial Nov. 4. The American Cancer Society played a significant collaborative role in helping NCI recruit participants into the clinical trial.