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Cancer and Cigarettes

Cancers of various types kill more than half a million Americans each year. Prostate cancer (among men), breast cancer (among women), lung cancer and colorectal cancer account for more than half of these deaths. The cancer death rate is declining for several reasons. One is the decrease in the number of people who smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, which has resulted in a decline in lung cancer cases. Another is the increase in early detection efforts, such as a colonoscopy to detect colon cancer or a mammography for breast cancer.

Cancer does not treat the races equally in the United States. African-American men have a 14% greater chance of contracting some kind of cancer than white men, and more than a 30% greater chance of dying from cancer. African-American women get cancer at a lower rate than white women, but are more likely to die from the disease.

In 2008, the percentage of Americans who smoke dropped below 20% for the first time, yet the health cost of smoking is still high, relating not only to cancer, but also to other lung diseases as well as heart disease. Smoking, in fact kills more Americans than alcohol, cocaine, crack, heroin, homicide, suicide, auto accidents, war, fires and AIDS combined. Lung cancer is still a serious problem in the United States, and is, to the surprise of many, the number one cause of cancer deaths in women. The cost of tobacco use, in healthcare and lost workdays, may exceed $100 billion a year.

One of the most talked-about cancers on the American cultural scene is breast cancer. Many organizations strive to raise funds for breast cancer research. Athletic events, particularly the “Race for the Cure” series, spread the word and raise money. As advertising tie-ins, numerous food and consumer products companies donate portions of their sales for featured products to breast cancer research. The wearing of pink ribbons and pink clothing symbolizes these efforts. A major organization dedicated to the fight against breast cancer is Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

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