Skip to main content
News Article News Article

Great American Smokeout: Quitting smoking could prevent 6 million cancer deaths

Even as cancer deaths linked to tobacco use have declined over time, about 6 million current smokers may die from tobacco-related cancers unless they quit.

Since cancer deaths from tobacco started declining—in 1990 for men and 1995 for women—more than 1 million deaths have been avoided, thanks in part to tobacco prevention and control initiatives. Despite that progress, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of cancer and cancer deaths.

For today’s Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society’s annual event that encourages smokers to make a plan to quit, we took a look at the latest data on tobacco-related cancers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco, can cause at least 12 types of cancer.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., and cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer.
  • During each year from 2009 to 2013, 660,000 people were diagnosed with and 343,000 people died from a tobacco-related cancer.
  • Diagnosis and death rates are disproportionately higher among certain groups, including men, African-Americans, and those living in areas with high levels of poverty and low levels of education.
  • Cancers linked to tobacco use make up 40 percent of all diagnosed cancers.
  • About 3 in 10 cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure could account for an additional 7,300 lung cancer deaths among non-smokers.

For more on this topic, check out Truth Initiative’s fact sheet on tobacco and cancer.