This Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General's 1964 Report on Smoking and Health, the first major statement in the United States linking smoking to lung cancer.
With more than 200,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the United States and smoking contributing to 87% of lung cancer deaths and 30% of all cancer deaths, this landmark report and the 30 subsequent Surgeon General's Reports on smoking have greatly influenced what we do here at MD Anderson.
Here are four ways the Surgeon General's Report has impacted our work and -- and our cancer patients and their families.
1. We've hired more researchers focused on smoking and cancer.
"The 1964 Surgeon General's Report set the stage for extraordinary increase in knowledge and research on tobacco and cancer that's occurred since then," says Ellen R. Gritz, Ph.D., chair of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson and an author and/or editor for nine Surgeon General's reports on smoking and tobacco. In fact, the increased visibility of tobacco as a significant risk factor for lung cancer and other cancers led to the development of our Department of Behavioral Science, says Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at MD Anderson. The department focuses on helping smokers and others with addictive behaviors break the cycle of addiction and adopt healthier lifestyles.
"This has resulted in us hiring more researchers focused on smoking and tobacco and then using our research findings to help individuals quit smoking," Hawk says.
Here are a few notable areas of MD Anderson tobacco research:
- Tobacco addiction's impact on cancer patients and survivors
- The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST), which found that lung cancer deaths could be reduced by 20% in long-term, heavy smokers who receive low-dose CT scans
- The role of online tools and mobile apps in preventing smoking among teens and adolescents
- The effectiveness of combining antidepressants with counseling and nicotine replacement therapy to help people quit smoking
2. Our Tobacco Treatment Program helps patients, families and employees quit smoking
Research shows that smoking undermines the effectiveness of cancer treatment and increases the chances of recurrence or a second primary cancer.
That's why, in 2006, we launched our Tobacco Treatment Program, to help our patients, their families and our employees stop smoking. The program is available at no cost. All patients who self-identify as smokers or recent quitters are automatically referred to the program, which provides individualized behavioral counseling and medication for quitting tobacco, as well as psychological and psychiatric support.
Patients may choose in-person support, telephone-only counseling, live video counseling, or mailed materials and a follow-up call. Whatever type of support they choose, the program keeps patients' doctors informed about their tobacco treatment plans.
3. Our hospital was one of the first to go smoke-free.
It's common to see "no smoking" signs around hospitals now. But it wasn't when MD Anderson became a smoke-free campus in 1989.
"That was a really important milestone among academic institutions as well as hospitals," Hawk says. "We were one of the first hospitals in the country to adopt a smoke-free policy."
4. Our Moon Shots Program focuses on lung cancer treatment, early detection and prevention.
"Since 1964, smoking rates have dropped by more than half as a result of successful education, legislative and smoking cessation efforts," says Lewis Foxhall, M.D., vice president for Health Policy at MD Anderson. "Still, lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer and the leading preventable cause of death in the United States."
That's why MD Anderson is focusing on lung cancer as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths.
Using advances in genetic mapping, molecular profiling and diagnostic imaging, we're working on new treatment options for patients with advanced lung cancer. We're also working to improve lung cancer screening to find the disease early when it's most treatable.
And, through a series of policy, education and community-based initiatives, we're working to end smoking and tobacco use before it starts so that no one has to suffer from lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers.