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VA research in action

Smoking increases lung cancer risk

May 1, 2019

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Pioneering work at the East Orange VA Medical Center in the 1960s established the causal link between active smoking and lung cancer. Earlier observations linked lung disorders and cigarette smoke, but were criticized by the tobacco industry as failing to demonstrate that the cigarette smoke induced the lung cancer. A landmark animal research study by Dr. Oscar Auerbach found that smoking for three years caused major changes in the lungs of animals who were taught to inhale cigarettes—and that many developed cancer. The VA research with dogs was the basis for the warning labels on cigarette packages.

The VA work was cited heavily in the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of smoking. By studying thousands of slides of human tissue, Auerbach and colleagues showed that the more a person smoked, the more tissue damage was seen in the lungs. They also showed the danger of second-hand smoke.

Principal investigator: Oscar Auerbach, M.D.; VA New Jersey Health Care System

Selected publications:

Oscar Auerbach, 92, Dies; Linked Smoking to Cancer. Ford Burkhart. New York Times. Jan. 16, 1997.

The effect of direct cigarette smoke inhalation on the respiratory tree of dogs. Auerbach O, Hammond EC, Kirman D, Garfinkel L, Stout AP. Natl Cancer Inst Monog. 1968 Jun;28:65-67.

Smoking and health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service. U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. 1964.

Changes in the bronchial epithelium in relation to smoking and cancer of the lung. Auerbach O, Gere JB, Forman JB, Petrick TG, Smolin JH, Muehsam GE, Kassouny DY, Stout AP. New Eng J Med. 1957;256:97-104.

The anatomical approach to the study of smoking and bronchogenic carcinoma; a preliminary report of forty-one cases. Auerbach O, Petrick TG, Stout AAP, Statsinger AL, Muehsam GE, Forman JB, Gere JB. Cancer. 1956 Jan-Feb;9(1):76-83.


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