Deaths elsewhere

February 01, 2010|By Los Angeles Times


Demonstrated smoking causes lung cancer

Lawrence Garfinkel, the statistician who overcame his lack of a doctoral degree and training in oncology to become one of the driving forces in demonstrating that smoking causes lung cancer, died of cardiovascular disease Jan. 21 in Seattle.

Mr. Garfinkel oversaw the training of thousands of volunteers for the American Cancer Society and helped conduct two of the largest epidemiological studies ever, enrolling more than 2.2 million men and women. Those studies, along with the British Doctors' Study, played key roles in formulating the landmark 1964 surgeon general's report on smoking and health.

Before 1930, lung cancer was a rare disease never encountered by most physicians. But World War I had turned many American men into smokers, and the aftermath became apparent in the 1940s.

In 1951, the cancer society's Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond and Dr. Daniel Horn enrolled 187,783 white males in nine states in a study. Mr. Garfinkel, who had joined the society as a statistician in 1947, was directly responsible for the fieldwork in the study, training the thousands of volunteers who collected the data. The study clearly showed that lung cancer was a direct result of smoking, but many refused to accept the findings.

When the society began its 1959 Cancer Prevention Study I of 1 million people, Mr. Garfinkel was promoted to co-principal investigator. In addition to training volunteers, he took an integral role in analyzing data and publishing the results, and he was co-author of the 1961 paper, "Smoking Habits of Men and Women," that reported the first results from the study.

When Dr. Hammond retired in 1979, Mr. Garfinkel took over his position and organized the Cancer Prevention Study II, which included 1.2 million participants from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. It remains the largest epidemiological study of its kind.

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