The Study that Changed Cigarette Smoking

This week we remember E. Cuyler Hammond, an American statistician, biologist and epidemiologist who was born on June 14, 1912.  You may not recognize the name, but Dr. Hammond affected the health of people around the world.  He was one of the first researchers to establish a connection between cigarette smoking and cancer.

From 1900 to 1963, annual American cigarette consumption grew from 54 to 4,345 per capita.  At the same time, lung cancer grew from a rare disease to the most prevalent cancer among American men.

By the 1950s, several studies suggested a link between smoking and cancer, but they were anecdotal and unconvincing.  In response, Hammond and his team recruited 22,000 volunteers to track 188,000 men over a five-year period.  They published their findings in 1954.

“An analysis of information now available indicates that the over-all death rate, the death rate from diseases of the coronary arteries, and the death rate from cancer are much higher among men with a history of regular cigarette smoking than among men who never smoked.”

Ironically, Hammond himself was a lifelong smoker who consumed four packs of cigarettes a day.  He quit smoking in 1952 as a result of his work, but died in 1986 of lymphoma, a form of cancer.

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