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Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Secretary for Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

November 1, 2011

Every November, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other organizations join to recognize Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a national campaign aimed at raising attention to lung cancer and its impact on our Nation’s health.

Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, is largely preventable. About 90 percent of lung cancer deaths among men, and 80 percent of lung cancer deaths among women, are due to smoking.[1] Moreover, tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.[2] Each year, approximately 443,000 Americans die from tobacco-related illnesses. For every person who dies from tobacco use, 20 more people suffer with at least one serious tobacco-related illness,[3] and approximately 130,000 of these deaths are due to lung cancer.[4]

Tobacco use can lead to nicotine dependence and serious health problems. Quitting can significantly reduce the risk of suffering from smoking-related diseases. Tobacco dependence is a chronic condition that often requires repeated interventions, but effective treatments and helpful resources exist. We want to support smokers , many of whom began before they were old enough to make an informed choice. Most smokers want to quit and many do every year. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers.[5] HHS is dedicated to combating this widespread and devastating disease. Guiding the Department’s action in the fight against lung cancer is the HHS Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan, which aims to create a society free of tobacco-related death and disease. The Plan’s specific, evidence-based actions include strengthening state and local tobacco control efforts; regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products (including requiring new bolder health warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements); expanding access to effective tobacco use cessation treatment; and conducting mass media and education campaigns to prevent initiation among youth, promote cessation among adults and inform the public about the health consequences of tobacco use.

Finally, to build upon our efforts to raise awareness of tobacco prevention and its impact on the nation’s health, this year, the Department included tobacco prevention among the Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators (LHIs). The LHIs highlight current critical health issues that, if remain unaddressed, predict future public health problems. Addressing tobacco use is critical in reducing heart disease, stroke and cancers.

I invite you to join us as we work toward our goal of reducing the incidence of lung cancer across the nation. Supporting our efforts to eliminate tobacco use among adults and adolescents, can improve the future health of all Americans.



[1] National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Tobacco Statistics Snapshot. Retrieved on October 11, 2011 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/tobacco/statisticssnapshot.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual smoking-attributable mortality, years of potential life lost, and economic costs—United States, 1995–1999. MMWR. 2002;51(14):300-3 [cited 2009 Aug 18].

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual smoking-attributable mortality, years of potential life lost, and economic costs—United States, 1995–1999. MMWR. 2002;51(14):300-3 [cited 2009 Aug 18].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette smoking among adults and trends in smoking cessation—United States, 2008. MMWR. 2009;58(44):1227-32 [cited 2009 Nov 16].

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States, 2000–2004. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2008;57(45):1226–8 [accessed 2011 Mar 11].

[5] Fiore MC, Bailey WC, Cohen SJ, Dorfman SF, Goldstein MG, Gritz ER, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update—Clinical Practice Guidelines. Rockville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2008 [accessed 2010 Jun 2].