From TheFamilyGP.com Featuring Dr Chris Steele MBE

Lung cancer cases in women continue to rise

Mirrors smoking patterns in men and women

Lung cancer cases in women are continuing to rise, according to new figures released by Cancer Research UK.

In 2009, more than 18,000 women in the UK were diagnosed with the disease compared with fewer than 8,000 in 1975. 

Lung cancer is still more common in men, with more than 23,000 cases in 2009, but rates in men have been falling fast. The incidence of male lung cancer is now 58.8 cases per 100,000 UK men compared with 110 in 1975.

But in women, lung cancer rates are now at 39.3 cases per 100,000 UK women, compared with 22.2 in 1975.  

The differences in lung cancer rates between the sexes reflect the smoking patterns in previous decades for men and women, the cancer charity said.

Smoking rates for women in Britain were highest during the 1960s, when around 45 per cent of women smoked. This has since fallen to 20 per cent.

More than 65 per cent of men smoked during WWII, with lung cancer rates peaking around 30 years later. Now 22 per cent of men are smokers.

The new figures also reveal that the total number of UK lung cancer deaths stands at almost 35,000. Some 19,410 men and 15,449 women died from the disease in 2010.

Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, said: "These latest figures highlight the deadly impact of tobacco. The continuing rise of lung cancer in women reflects the high number of female smokers several decades ago when attitudes were different. 

"Tobacco advertising hasn't appeared on UK television since 1965, but that didn’t stop the marketing of cigarettes. New, more sophisticated marketing techniques have lured many hundreds of thousands into starting an addiction that will kill half of all long term smokers.

"It's vital that the UK closes one of the last remaining loopholes that portrays smoking as something glamorous and normal, rather than the lethal product it truly is. Ending the packet racket and putting all cigarettes in plain packs with large health warnings is crucial. 

"No one wants to see children take up smoking, and while plain packs won't stop everyone from smoking, it will give millions of children one less reason to start."

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s information director, added: "Lung cancer continues to claim far too many lives. More than four in five cases of the disease are caused directly by smoking. But this means nearly one in five cases is not. 

"It's really important that anyone with a cough that lasts for three weeks or a worsening or a change in a long-standing cough get this checked out.

"Also, it's never too late to give up smoking – you will reduce your risk of developing lung cancer and other serious diseases. Your GP or local pharmacy can advise you where to find your local NHS support services."

This article was published on Fri 13 April 2012