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by Abigail Van Buren

Smoking Is Not the Cause of All Lung Cancer Deaths

DEAR ABBY: The letter from Marvin H. Leaf, D.D.S., who listed some prominent people who had died of lung cancer, struck a very painful chord within me.

Dr. Leaf mentioned Steve McQueen among those who had died as a result of smoking. Abby, Steve McQueen died of a malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is almost always due to long-term exposure to asbestos and is completely unrelated to smoking. I understand that Mr. McQueen at one time worked as an automobile brake repairman, which would have exposed him to asbestos on a daily basis.

My mother was a physician and the director of health for Alamance County, North Carolina. She was also a tireless crusader for good health habits. Two years ago, she died of malignant pleural mesthelioma. My mother never smoked nor was she exposed to asbestos, and we have no idea why she developed lung cancer.

I certainly do not appreciate Dr. Leaf's implication that all lung cancers are the result of smoking and should be so publicized in the obituaries of the deceased.

You will no doubt hear from many other families who were equally offended by Dr. Leaf's misinformation, and I am sure that as usual you will set the record straight. -- JILL B. KOURY, M.D.

DEAR DR. KOURY: Thank you for writing. I tried to locate Dr. Leaf, who is now retired and has an unlisted telephone number. I hope that after this appears in my column, he will write again and set the record straight.