To the editor:
A new report released on July 23 by the New York State Chapter of the American Cancer Society has revealed some alarming news about lung cancer. The report, "The Cancer Burden in New York State," informs us that the top three diagnosed cancers in New York state are, No. 1, prostate cancer; No. 2, breast cancer; and No. 3, lung cancer. It also lets us know which is the deadliest. You may be surprised to learn more people die from lung cancer each year (just under 30 percent of all cancer deaths) than any other cancer.
Lung cancer rates and associated deaths are higher in our communities then the state average. Why? The main reason is more people smoke here. About 90 percent of lung cancer is caused by tobacco smoke (2004 Report of the Surgeon General). Tobacco smoke has more than 7,000 chemicals; at least 70 of these are known to cause cancer in people or animals.
What can we do? The American Cancer Society's report stresses the need for increased and sustained funding of New York state's Tobacco Control Program, particularly in upstate New York, where health problems due to smoking and high associated health care costs are most severe. It also highlights the need for increased regulations to keep flavored tobacco products out of retail locations, where minors are exposed to these "gateway" products which introduce young people to the addictive power of nicotine.
-De-normalizing tobacco use through tobacco-free grounds policy helps prevent tobacco use by young people and helps people who have quit tobacco remain quit by decreasing the visual cues of smoking. We have many great examples of new tobacco-free grounds policies in our region; two recent examples are from Champlain Centre and Essex County government.
-Health care professionals play a large role in encouraging their patients to stop smoking and provide guidance on how to do so effectively. Recently, some medical home practices in our area have integrated a referral process in their electronic medical record, making referrals to the New York State Smokers' Quitline easy to deliver.
-Tobacco users who have tried to quit before and relapsed should not give up trying. Often it takes many attempts before long-term success. Help is available from medical professionals and the NYS Smokers' Quitline. Callers or Web visitors to the Quitline may be eligible for a two-week sample of the nicotine patch. Call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487), or go to www.nysmokefree.com.
For more information and a copy of the American Cancer Society's Report, "Cancer Burden in New York State," July 2012, go to www.acscan.org.