Alcohol and Smoking Linked to Premature Death in Many Cancers

Alcohol and Smoking Linked to Premature Death in Many Cancers

A new study shows that 11 of the 15 cancers responsible for premature death and loss of healthy life years in US residents are closely linked to smoking and alcohol.

The report was published online October 18 in the Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The loss of healthy years of life is measured as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). One DALY is the equivalent to loss of 1 year of healthy life and is a combined measure of mortality, incidence, survival, and quality of life.

In a story that appeared in Medscape Medical News, the report shows that men and women shared the cancer burden equally, with each group losing 4.9 DALYs of healthy life years. However, the cancer burden was 20% to 30% higher in African Americans than in all races/ethnicities combined.

Populations with the next highest DALYs, in descending order, were non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Asians.

The story goes on to note that in 2011, lung cancer accounted for 24% of the cancer burden (2.4 million DALYs). Breast cancer was responsible for 10% of the cancer burden, followed by colorectal cancer at 9%, pancreatic cancer at 6%, prostate cancer at 5%, and leukemia at 4%. Almost 50% of all years of healthy life lost or DALYs were the result of lung, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancers — "the four most-burdensome cancers," the researchers note.

The study showed that age-standardized DALY rate (ASR) ratios of non-Hispanic black men were 1.3 times higher than in non-Hispanic white men for all cancers and 1.2 times higher in non-Hispanic black women compared to non-Hispanic white women. Prostate cancers in black men and breast and corpus uteri cancer in black women contributed predominantly to these differences.

Analysis showed that age-specific DALY rates increased as age increased, starting at 50 years.

The article notes that health disparities usually arise from a complex combination of socioeconomic, behavioral, and biological factors as well as structural barriers, such as lack of access to care for primary prevention, early detection, and timely treatment, the researchers note.

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