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Do You Know the Number One Cancer Killer?

Smoking is the cause of most lung-cancer deaths. Credit: cherlyholt/morguefile
Smoking is the cause of most lung-cancer deaths. Credit: cherlyholt/morguefile
November 11, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS - Lung cancer is the top cancer killer of both women and men, taking the lives of almost twice as many women as any other form of cancer.

State data shows that about 5,000 Indiana residents are diagnosed each year. Anyone can get lung cancer, even people who never have smoked. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Dr. Nasser Hanna, a medical oncologist at Indiana University Health Simon Cancer Center, believes people are largely unaware of how deadly lung cancer is.

"It kills more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer combined," he said. "If people are not aware of the risks, they can't modify their behavior accordingly."

Hanna said secondhand smoke, along with exposure to asbestos, radon and other cancer-causing agents, can increase a person's lung-cancer risk. Smoking is behind 87 percent of lung-cancer deaths, yet nearly one in four adults in Indiana is a smoker.

Hanna said kicking the habit can have a tremendous impact on health.

"For those who are at high risk, it's never too late to quit smoking," he said. "You can markedly reduce your incidence of lung cancer, even after a lifetime of smoking, if you simply quit smoking."

Hanna said lung cancer often is lethal because it is typically diagnosed at a later stage.

"The life expectancy is short," he said, "and it's getting a little bit longer now, but many of our patients do die in a matter of months and not years."

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the five-year survival rate for all stages of lung cancer combined is 16 percent.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN