One hundred and eighty-six thousand seems a rather inconspicuous sort of number at first glance, but it is actually a truly remarkable string of digits that has two sciency things in common. In terms of physics, it is the number of miles that light travels in a single second, and sets the upper limit of speed at which anything can travel.
In medicine, 186,000 is the number of potentially lethal cancer diagnoses expected in Canada in a single year.
There's another number that is even more remarkable than the medically significant 186,000, and that's 4,700,000 - the number of Canadians who still smoke cigarettes, knowing that smoking puts them in the highest risk bracket for becoming one of the 186,000.
In fact, smoking is a huge risk factor for lung cancer, which remains among the most lethal of cancers, and continues to claim more fatalities each year than any other cancer.
Cigars and pipes are also major factors in lung cancer, not to mention lip, tongue and throat cancers.
And it's not just cancer - tobacco is implicated in emphysema as well as respiratory and other lethal or debilitating illnesses. May 31 was World No Tobacco Day - a day of awareness and recognition of the part that tobacco will play in many of the 186,000 lives that will be impacted this year by a cancer diagnosis in Canada, along with millions of others throughout the world.
Quite unlike the blink-of-an-eye speed of light, the speed of tobacco-related cancers is often a relentlessly slow, laborious, and painful trek towards death.
The days and weeks following World No Tobacco Day are an opportunity for millions of smokers around the world to join with each other and move towards longer living and a healthier lifestyle.