Smoking and Cancer Statistics

Current Stats and Trends in the United States

Lung cancer due to smoking, computer artwork.

When people think of cancers caused by smoking, the first one that comes to mind is always lung cancer, and there is good reason for that. Most cases of lung cancer death (approximately 9 out of 10 for both men and women)are caused by cigarette smoking.

There are numerous other types of cancer linked to tobacco use as well. The toxins in tobacco and cigarette smoke especially, travel through the blood stream and come in contact with every organ in the human body.

It is no wonder then, that so many cancers occur among tobacco users and those who breathe in secondhand smoke.

12 Cancer Types That are Strongly Linked to Smoking

A recent study by researchers from the American Cancer Society and other colleagues looked at data from nearly 346,000 adults 35 years and up who died in 2011 from 12 cancer types.

  1. Lung Cancer
  2. Cancer of the Larynx
  3. Oral Cancer (including Throat)
  4. Esophageal Cancer
  5. Bladder Cancer
  6. Liver Cancer
  7. Acute Myeloid Leukemia
  8. Cervical Cancer
  9. Kidney Cancer
  10. Pancreatic Cancer
  11. Stomach Cancer
  12. Colon and Rectal Cancer

They found that cigarette smoking was responsible for nearly half of the deaths (48.5 percent or approximately 168,000 deaths) from these 12 different types of cancer in 2011.

Not surprisingly, the study showed that lung cancer was by far the most common cancer death cause, with 80.2 percent of cases being linked to smoking.  Cancer of the larynx (voice box) followed next with 76.6 percent.

Approximately 50 percent of oral/throat, bladder and esophageal cancer were attributed to smoking. The rest of the cancer types fell within a range - on the high end was liver cancer at 23.6 percent, and at the low end, colon and rectal cancer at 9.7 percent.

The study results were published in the online JAMA Internal Medicine June 15, 2015 issue.

Lung Cancer Key Facts

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and cigarette smoking is linked to about 80 percent of these deaths. One in four cancer deaths is due to lung cancer.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016,  224,390 new cases of lung cancer (117,920 in men and 106,470 in women) will be diagnosed, and 158,080 lung cancer deaths (85,920 in men and 72,160 in women) will occur.
  • Lung cancer claims more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
  • Most cases of lung cancer occur in people who are 65 and older, with the average age at diagnosis being 70.
  • Every day in the United States, 432 people die of lung cancer (smokers and non-smokers).
  • Approximately 7300 non-smokers die from lung cancer each year because of breathing in secondhand smoke.
  • Lung cancer is so deadly because its symptoms can be subtle, and people often don't seek medical care until the cancer is advanced and hard to cure.
  • Lung cancer is the most preventable form of cancer in the U.S. and around the world today.

Approximately 60 percent of lung cancer patients are former smokers, with just 20 percent still actively smoking.  Smoking cessation cuts the risk of developing lung cancer, but not to zero.

Lung cancer screening is an option for some people, and is covered by many insurance companies. Learn about the pros and cons of this procedure, and then have a discussion with your doctor if it's a test you'd like to pursue.

Smoking and Cancer General Facts

To date, researchers have identified approximately 7000 chemicals in cigarette smoke.  Of those, 250 are known to be poisonous and 70 can cause cancer.  

There is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke.  It is a toxic blend of chemicals that put human life (and pet's lives) at risk.

  • Cigarette smoking is a significant risk factor for esophageal cancer in the United States. Approximately 16,910 new cases and 15,690 deaths are expected from esophageal cancer during 2016.
  • Smokeless tobacco puts users at risk of developing pancreatic, esophageal, mouth/throat cancers.
  • People who smoke and drink alcohol are at greater risk of developing laryngeal cancer. In 2016, it's estimated that 13,430 new cases will be diagnosed, and 3620 people will lose their lives to laryngeal cancer.
  • For  cancers caused by smoking, the risk typically rises with the number of pack years smoked.
  • Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for oral cancer. People who smoke pipes and cigars also carry this risk.
  • Benzene is a known cause of acute myleoid leukemia, and cigarette smoke is a major source of benzene exposure. For smokers in the United States, upwards of 90% of benzene exposure come from cigarettes.

How Does Smoking Cessation Affect Cancer Rates for Ex-Smokers?

  • Within 5 years of quitting, ex-smokers reduce their risk of esophageal, mouth, throat and bladder cancer by 50 percent.
  • Within 10 years of quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer also goes down by 50 percent.

If no one smoked, one in three cancers would not happen.


While the damage from smoking cannot be completely undone when we quit, the improvements to our health from smoking cessation are significant and worth every bit of effort it takes to stop.  Quality of life goes up in more ways than you might imagine.

If you're still smoking, these resources will help you get started with cessation.

Quit Smoking Lessons

Our Smoking Cessation Forum Community

Take your life back, starting now.


American Cancer Society. Study: Smoking Causes Almost Half of Deaths from 12 Cancer Types. Accessed July 2016.

American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Lung Cancer. Accessed July 2016.

American Cancer Society. 2015 General Lung Cancer Fact Sheet. Accessed July 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Cancer. Accessed July 2016.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Accessed July 2016.

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