US/World

Lung Cancer Rates Among UK Women Increase By 75%: A ‘Stark Reminder’ Of The Disease’s Challenges

women smoking
The rates of lung cancer among women in the U.K. and the U.S. has actually increased significantly since 1975. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

According to new research from Cancer Research UK, the rate of lung cancer among women in the U.K. appears to be rising significantly, compared to a drop in the disease among men.

Since 1975, lung cancer rates have risen among women by 73 percent, but has dropped 47 percent among men. This could be because the number of men who smoke has been decreasing since the 1950s, but women did not stop smoking much until the 1970s. Overall, however, lung cancer rates have decreased by about 20 percent.

In 1975, 23 women in every 100,000 had lung cancer — but today that’s doubled, at 41 women per 100,000. Lung cancer among men, meanwhile, is down to 59 in 100,000 compared to 112 in 100,000 in 1975. The figures are a “stark reminder” of the disease’s challenges, Dr. Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, told the BBC. Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer in the UK, and only 10 percent of people diagnosed with the disease survive past five years. “The disease kills more than twice as many people as the second most common cancer killer — bowel cancer — and this looks set to continue unless we all do more,” Kumar said. “The attitude that a lung cancer diagnosis is a death sentence must change.”

In the U.S., lung cancer continues to be a leading cause of cancer death as well as the second most common form of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among women, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, and among men, it’s prostate cancer. Lung cancer, however, kills as many people as prostate, pancreas, breast and colon cancer combined. There was an estimated 228,190 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S. in 2013, and 159,480 deaths.

Interestingly, in the U.S., the lung cancer prevalence among women has risen, and dropped among men, as well. According to the American Lung Association, smoking accounts for 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women, and 90 percent in men. Second-hand smoking and radon are other potential causes of lung cancer, outdoor air pollution, and occupational exposure to carcinogens.

“We need to improve awareness of the possible signs and symptoms of lung cancer and urge people — especially those at increased risk — to go to their doctor without delay if they spot any symptoms,” Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, told the BBC. “We know that if people go to their GP as soon as they’re aware of symptoms it can make all the difference and save lives.”

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