These Maps Clearly Illustrate The Link Between Smoking And Cancer

The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with an invasive cancer is 44 per cent for men and 38 per cent for women. But not everyone is at equal risk.

If you have ever doubted the rock solid link between smoking and cancer — which has now been well-established for 50 years — take a look at these maps:

More than a quarter of all cancer deaths in this country are due to lung cancer, and while cigarettes are not the only thing that causes it, smoking is the number one risk factor.

“Lung cancer shows the largest geographic variation in cancer occurrence by far, reflecting the large historical and continuing differences in smoking prevalence among states,” researchers noted in a recent report of the latest cancer statistics. In Kentucky, for example, where smoking is most prevalent, the rate of lung cancer is almost four times as high as it is in Utah, where smoking is least prevalent.

And it’s not just lung cancer that contributes to the stark picture seen in these maps. “Smoking is most often associated with lung cancer, but it’s also a risk factor for developing other types of cancers,” researcher Lindsay Conway told Dan Diamond of The Advisory Board Company.

Still, it’s important to keep in mind that people get cancer for a wide variety of reasons, many of which we still don’t understand. The variation in cancer rates among states can also reflect poverty, environmental health, and different screening practices, which may lead to under- or over-reported rates of disease.

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