Cancer of the lung, a largely preventable disease caused mainly by cigarette smoking, continues to increase at an alarming rate. It claimed about 55,000 lives in the United States in 1968 and ranked as the leading cause of cancer death in men. The five-year survival rate is extremely low.

Smoking vs Lung cancer claims

Lung cancer claims, more lives than any other form of cancer in the United States and is the leading cause of cancer death among men. It is caused mainly by cigarette smoking and is thus preventable in most cases.

Leadership in planning and organizing research approaches to the lung cancer problem has been taken by the Lung Cancer Task Force established at the direction of President Johnson in 1967 and chaired by the Director of the National Cancer Institute. This body, composed of scientists and physicians drawn from Government and the academic community, with liaison representation from the tobacco industry and other interests, has identified the major problems relating to lung cancer and considered lines of research attack that might be directed against them from the viewpoints of cause and prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

The Task Force recognizes that smoking is the chief cause of lung cancer and that the risk is materially reduced for smokers who give up the habit or substantially cut down their consumption of cigarettes. Development of a less hazardous cigarette has been given high priority in the group's research planning. This would also reduce the danger for smokers, undoubtedly, but research to produce it will be a long and complicated procedure. The first step will be to work out biologic and chemical assay systems to compare different brands and types of cigarettes and determine degrees of hazard. With such information in hand standards can then be formulated for manufacture, consumer testing, and marketing of a less hazardous cigarette.

It is fully recognized that factors other than smoking are involved in the production of lung cancer—factors, such as exposure to radiation or chemical agents in occupat'onal situations, and pollution of the urban atmosphere, which exert carcinogenic effects primarily in heavy smokers. Scientists have hardly begun to identify the nature and biologic activity of the agents that characterize occupational and atmospheric exposures, and this enormous task will require many sophisticated resources including analytic testing and screening systems and skilled people to establish apd operate them.

The problem of multiple factors can also be studied in population groups. Shifts in lung cancer incidence among migrants to this country and the high risk of the disease in certain occupational groups are under investigation as etiologic clues.

Thousands of persons who have smoked or been exposed to other lung cancer hazards for long periods of their lives will develop the disease in the years ahead. Today, cure of lung cancer depends almost entirely on very early detection, diagnosis, and surgical removal of a lesion confined to the lung. Available methods for early detection, and for treatment of disseminated disease, are inadequate. It is of utmost urgency, therefore, to improve through intensive research efforts the methods available to physicians for detecting, diagnosing, and treating lung cancer. In these circumstances it is certainly unfortunate that the possibility of avoiding lung cancer by reducing or abstaining from cigarette smoking, though well supported statistically, has been so poorly accepted by the public.