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Drop in cigarette smoking linked to decline in prostate cancer deaths

Declines in prostate cancer deaths from 1999 through 2010 parallel declines in the number of men who smoke cigarettes, Johns Hopkins researchers report.

Using state-level data on smoking behaviors and mortality outcomes, the researchers examined state prostate cancer mortality rates in relation to changes in cigarette smoking among men aged 35 years or older from four U.S. states: California, Kentucky, Maryland, and Utah.

The study reveals greater declines in prostate cancer death rates in Kentucky and Maryland during the 11-year period, with those states having a higher prevalence of smoking in 1999 compared with California and Utah.

Researchers observed the following declines in each state:

  • Cigarette smoking in Kentucky declined by 3 percent per year and prostate cancer mortality rates declined by 3.5 percent per year.
  • In Maryland, cigarette smoking declined by 3 percent per year, albeit not significantly, and prostate cancer mortality rates declined by 3.5 percent per year.
  • In California, cigarette smoking declined by 3.5 percent per year, and prostate cancer mortality rates declined by 2.5 percent per year.
  • In Utah, cigarette smoking declined by 3.5 percent per year, and prostate cancer mortality rates declined by 2.1 percent per year.

When segmented by race, researchers observed greater declines in both cigarette smoking and prostate cancer death rates among black men compared with white men in Maryland, which was the only state in the study to observe a significant change in the prevalence of cigarette smoking among black men during the assessed period. The researchers note, that previous research shows that compared with white men, black men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer, are more commonly diagnosed with late-stage and high-grade tumors, and have a higher risk for fatal prostate cancer.

Decreases in the number of prostate cancer deaths observed at the population level may be due to decreases in cigarette smoking over time, the researchers suggest.

“These findings support the need for targeted smoking cessation efforts, which could reduce prostate cancer mortality rates in this population burdened by both higher rates of prostate cancer and an elevated prevalence of cigarette smoking,” they conclude.