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FOR RELEASE: January 13, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Smoking is a Risk Factor for Lung and Pancreatic Cancers
Health Officials Urge People to Quit Smoking in New Year

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the most important risk factor for both lung and pancreatic cancer is smoking. Citing some of the major health hazards for smokers and related early warning signs, state health officials are strongly encouraging all Oklahomans to quit smoking or using other tobacco products for their own health and for the sake of their loved ones.

“Smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancer deaths and 32 percent of pancreatic cancer deaths,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “The likelihood of lung or pancreatic cancer increases with each cigarette you smoke,” he said.

Cancers of the lung, trachea and bronchus are the leading cause of deaths for both men and women in Oklahoma. The southern and eastern areas of Oklahoma have the highest rates of lung and bronchus cancer in Oklahoma, with men being more likely to be diagnosed with lung and bronchus cancer than women.

According to the Oklahoma Central Cancer Registry, pancreatic cancer is ranked as the sixth leading cause of cancer death in Oklahoma men and women. In Oklahoma, men are more likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than women.

“Currently, there are no effective screening tests for lung or pancreatic cancer, although, there are several tests that may lead to a diagnosis of both diseases. The best method of prevention is not to use tobacco products, but if you do, then quit,” Crutcher said.

The following are potential symptoms of lung cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your physician:

  • persistent cough
  • coughing up blood
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing or hoarseness
  • frequent pneumonia or bronchitis

Similarly, these symptoms could be indicators for pancreatic cancer. Check with your physician if you have:

  • jaundice
  • pain in the upper or middle abdomen and back
  • unexplained weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue

To decrease the risk of lung and pancreatic cancer, health officials recommend that persons not smoke, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, and avoid exposing children to secondhand smoke. If you are currently a smoker (cigarettes, cigar, or pipe), then quit. There are resources available to help you stop. Talk to your health care provider or call the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-866 PITCH-EM (1-866-748-2436). For more information regarding the Helpline, visit this Web site: http://www.tset.ok.gov/programs/helpline.html.

For additional information regarding health problems caused by tobacco use, please contact the Tobacco Use Prevention Service or the Chronic Disease Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health, (405) 271-5600.

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