"It’s clear that smoking causes cancer," the Oncology Roundtable's Lindsay Conway told me. "Smoking is most often associated with lung cancer, but it’s also a risk factor for developing other types of cancers" like breast "and tobacco use is linked to head and neck cancers, [too]."
Rovner pointed out that there's also considerable overlap between smoking, cancer, and poverty, too, and I asked Lindsay to go deeper on that connection.
"My guess is that underserved populations are more likely to be exposed to environmental carcinogens," she mused. "They also have higher mortality rates from cancer because they’re less likely to be screened for cancers and so tend to be diagnosed late." (As she often does, Lindsay pointed me to resources to help providers launch screening programs.) And once diagnosed, many people in these populations also lack resources—whether time, cost, or transportation—to follow through on treatment, too.
Lindsay and I also talked a bit more about lung cancer—how the incidence rate for lung cancer is much higher in states with big populations of smokers, for example—and she closed on a note of caution. Don't jump to conclusions about a person's cancer, she warned, even if the overall map connecting tobacco and cancer can encourage simple connections.
"Because of the strong association with smoking, [advocates worry] that lung cancer patients get less sympathy—and less funding," Lindsay pointed out. "So advocates spend a lot of time reminding people that while smoking causes lung cancer, many non-smokers develop lung cancer too."