New research by the Daffodil Centre, a joint venture of Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney, predicts cigarette smoking will cause over 250,000 cancer deaths in Australia from 2020 to 2044, highlighting the need for renewed government commitment to tobacco control.
The study, by Dr. Qingwei Luo and colleagues, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, projects Australian mortality rates for cancer types which have an established association with cigarette smoking and estimated numbers of cancer deaths attributed to smoking up to 2044.
Mortality rates for smoking-related cancers for both males and females in Australia are expected to decline over the period to 2044, to a large extent reflecting the success of past and current tobacco control measures. However, mortality rates are still expected to remain at a high level and the overall number of deaths from smoking-related cancers is set to increase by 32 percent over the next 25-year period, due to ageing and increasing size of the population.
Professor Karen Canfell, senior author of this research and Director of the Daffodil Centre, said the study highlights the impact of smoking on cancer burden, and implies that almost one in five cancer deaths overall will be directly attributable to smoking over the 25 years from 2020-2044.
“Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of cancer mortality by a wide margin,” Professor Canfell said. “While most of the projected mortality burden related to smoking will occur in lung, oesophageal and respiratory sites, there are many other organs, including the pancreas, liver and bladder, where fatal cancers caused by smoking will develop over the next 25 years.
“Due to the lag between smoking exposure and cancer deaths, historical exposure is also a factor, highlighting the need for both improved tobacco control and new approaches to early detection, including emerging opportunities in targeted lung cancer screening.”
Anita Dessaix, Chair of the Cancer Council’s National Public Health Committee and Director of Cancer Prevention and Advocacy at Cancer Council NSW said the new research sent an urgent message to political leaders.
“We have known for decades that tobacco control is one of the most effective public health interventions, yet we face 250,000 smoking-caused cancer deaths due to complacency in policy reform and a lack of antismoking campaigns in recent years,” she said.
“Antismoking campaigns have been one of the most effective public health measures in Australia. The landmark National Tobacco Campaign saved 55,000 lives in its first run alone in the late 1990s and delivered direct savings to government well above the initial investment”.
Sarah Hosking, CEO of Cancer Council NSW, said “as an organisation that exists to reduce the burden of cancer in communities, we’re honoured to be able to fund such important research. We hope to see it pave the way for major change in tobacco control, and ultimately save lives”.
Anita Dessaix concludes, “sadly, it has been more than a decade since our last national tobacco campaign. Therefore, we need urgent action from the Federal government if we want to have any chance at avoiding just some of these preventable cancer deaths”.