Lung cancer now takes more female lives than breast cancer in UK
Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the most lethal form of the disease for women in the UK, research has shown.
Scientists predict that by the middle of the decade it will be the main cause of women’s cancer death in Europe.
New figures show that the lung cancer death rate among women in the UK now stands at 21 per 100,000 women.
Lung cancer has bucked the general trend over falling cancer mortality. Since 2009 the proportion of European men dying from cancer has dropped by 6% and of women by 4%.
Deaths from lung cancer have risen by 7% for women since 2009.
This year experts predict breast cancer to kill 88,886 women in Europe and lung cancer to kill 82,640.
Professor Carlo La Vecchia, one of the study authors from the University of Milan in Italy, said: “If these opposite trends in lung cancer rates continue, then in 2015 lung cancer is going to become the first cause of cancer mortality in Europe.
“This is already true in the UK and Poland, the two countries with the highest rates: 21.2 and 17.5 per 100,000 women respectively.”
He said the increased number of lung cancers among women may be due to young women taking up smoking in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Among European men, lung cancer death rates had fallen 6% since 2009. However, the disease was still the main cause of male cancer death.
The study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, looked at cancer death rates throughout the European Union, focusing primarily on six countries including the UK.
Another study, published in the journal Thorax, showed that lung cancer survival rates in the UK lag behind five other developed countries.
One-year survival rates for non-small cell lung cancer – the most common form of the disease – are not as good as those in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, according to the study which was conducted by the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership.
Survival rates for one year ranged from 30% in the UK to 46% in Sweden, according to the study. Australia and Canada reported one-year survival rates of 42%, while Denmark had 34% and Norway had 39%.
The study examined data concerning 57,000 lung cancer patients diagnosed between 2004 and 2007. It examined survival rates and what stage of cancer the patients were at when they were diagnosed.
In Denmark and the UK only one in seven patients with non-small cell lung cancer were diagnosed at the earliest stage of disease, compared with one in five in Sweden and Canada.
One-year survival for patients with the earliest stage disease in the UK was 72.5% – 16% lower than in Sweden.
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: “This research should remind us that while great progress is being made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the UK, we mustn’t be complacent.
“Around 35,000 people still die from lung cancer each year in the UK and that’s far too many. We would like to see ongoing improvements in data collection and the use of uniform systems for data on stage, in order to improve the accuracy of global comparisons.”