Lung Cancer Screenings Have Racial Disparities

Lacy LangleyLife

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Lung Cancer screenings may be muddled by racial differences in smoking habits, causing African-American smokers to be ineligible for screening more often than white smokers.

Researchers from Yale used National Health Interview Surveys from 1965 to 2012 to determine differences in racial smoking habits, which helped get a better picture of total exposure differences.

It seems, according to answers from the surveys, African-Americans started smoking later in life and kept smoking into their later years than their white counterparts.

White smokers tend to start in their late teen years, but quit earlier in life.

However, African-American smokers smoked fewer packs per day than white smokers, but had a longer average duration of exposure when the effects of tobacco-related disease, like lung cancer, become more apparent.

These numbers translated to fewer "pack years" for African-Americans, which are calculated by multiplying the number of packs smoked per day by years of smoking, thus leaving them less eligible for lung cancer screenings.

The problem lies in the fact that African-American risk of death from tobacco-related diseases is as high or higher than that of white smokers.

Researchers on the project are hoping these results will help the lung cancer screening process evolve.

In related news, it could soon be illegal to buy cigarettes in California before the age of 21. The law is aimed at preventing the early start of the habit.

John Billimek, a researcher with the Health Policy Research Institute in the UC Irvine School of Medicine, is hoping this kind of law will become wider-spread and will make it much harder for those in the 14-17 year range to get their hands on cigarettes.

He thinks this age group, being around 18-year-olds at school all day, have an easy time getting the older kids to buy for them. They are much more rarely around 21-year-olds.

Billimek said, “This can be a long-term effective policy to curb teen smoking. It’s important that a large metropolitan area like New York take the lead on this. If it works there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other municipal, county or state governments try the same.”

What do you think of the possibility of an age increase to 21 for purchasing cigarettes? Do you think it will cut down on lung cancer chances in the long run?

Lacy Langley
Lacy is a writer from Texas. She likes spending time in the home office, homeschooling her kids, playing the didgeridoo, caring for her chickens (Thelma and Louise), Rolos, Christmas, and Labyrinth.