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Death toll from cigarettes much higher than previously estimated

Marlboro cigarettes appear on display at a store in Little Rock, Ark. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Smoking cigarettes may lead to a whole lot more than just lung cancer, according to a new study that linked the habit to cancers of the esophagus, colon, bladder and eight other regions of the body.

The research, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Monday, estimates that nearly half of U.S. deaths to cancer of people 35 and older in 2011 -- 167,805 out of 345,962 -- were associated with smoking.

The study's findings are in a stark contrast to a 2014 U.S. Surgeon General's Report which characterizes the toll of death and disease from tobacco as falling over the years thanks to interventions. That's because the report looks only at the smoking-attributable deaths from lung cancer specifically but not the others that are also caused by smoking.

Rebecca L. Siegel, a researcher with the American Cancer Society and her co-authors, note in the study that smoking prevalence decreased from 23.2 percent to 18.1 percent from 2000 to 2012. But, they wrote,“Cigarette smoking continues to cause numerous deaths from multiple cancers despite half a century of decreasing prevalence.”

The authors said the study shows a need for more "comprehensive tobacco control, including targeted cessation support."

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