Trends in Smoking and Cancer Incidence in the Greater Bay Area Show Wide Variations in Tobacco Use Among Racial/Ethnic Groups, CPIC researchers report

Smoking or tobacco use still account for one in three cancer deaths in the U.S.

FREMONT, CA (January 21, 2015) — Smoking and smoking-related cancers have declined significantly in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area over the past few decades, according to a report issued by researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC).

“We have observed dramatic decreases in the proportion of people smoking – as much as 40 percent since 1996 – and parallel declines in the occurrence of smoking-related cancers, particularly lung cancer,” said Christina A. Clarke, Ph.D., a research scientist at CPIC. “This is welcome news that proves the value of cancer prevention research and education.”

The sharp declines are likely attributable to California’s anti-smoking campaigns emphasizing the negative health effects of smoking, as well as statewide bans on smoking in public areas first enacted in 1995, the researchers said.

Smoking varies widely according to gender and racial/ethnic background. Among men in the Greater Bay Area, for example, 20 percent of blacks currently smoke, followed by 16 percent of Hispanics, 14 percent of Asians and 12 percent of whites. Although fewer women smoke overall, the differences among racial/ethnic groups is more dramatic for women, with 22 percent of blacks being current smokers, nine percent of whites, six percent of Hispanics and two percent of Asians.

Smoking-related cancers are most common among Black men and women, followed by Whites. Despite a higher percentage of smokers, Hispanics and Asians have the lowest occurrence of smoking-related cancers.

“While fewer people are smoking now than ever before, evidence shows that the risk of smokers developing lung cancer has actually increased since the 1960s,” Dr. Clarke noted. “This is likely due to changes in the composition of cigarettes. Ninety percent of lung cancers are caused by smoking and these cancers are preventable.”

Lung cancer is the cancer most often associated with smoking, but smoking causes harm to all organs of the body. Smoking increases risk for developing cancers of the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, trachea, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, cervix, bone marrow and blood.

One in three cancer deaths each year is due to smoking or tobacco use. In the U.S., an estimated 224,210 new cases of lung cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2014, representing 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses.

“If you are a smoker, quit!” said Dr. Clarke. “Your cancer risk is cut in half within five years of quitting. It’s the single most important thing you can do.”

About the Cancer Prevention Institute of California
The Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) is the nation’s premier organization dedicated to preventing cancer and to reducing its burden where it cannot yet be prevented. CPIC tracks patterns of cancer throughout the entire population and identifies those at risk for developing cancer. Its research scientists are leaders in investigating the causes of cancer in large populations to advance the development of prevention-focused interventions. CPIC’s innovative cancer prevention research and education programs, together with the work of the Stanford Cancer Institute, deliver a comprehensive arsenal for defeating cancer. For more information, visit


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