For a long time breast cancer was the most deadly form of cancer in women. However, a recent report in the Annals of Oncology has revealed that more women now suffer from lung cancer than breast cancer. This trend comes as a surprise as smoking has seen a small decline in recent years as more countries adopt stricter smoking laws.
In the UK and Poland lung cancer is already killing more people than breast cancer. Why is this so? It seems that during the 1960’s and 1970’s there was a steep rise in the number of young women who smoked. It is these women who are now developing lung cancer 40-50 years later.
It is estimated that this year (2013) lung cancer will kill 82,640 European women, compared with 88,886 who will die from breast cancer. However, by 2015 lung cancer is set to overtake breast cancer.
Breast cancer awareness has increased in recent years and widespread screening programs mean that many cases of breast cancer are diagnosed and treated before they become more serious. However, this does not explain why cases are falling, it can only explain why fewer people are dying.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
If you smoke, or used to be a smoker, and have any of these symptoms you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible:
Symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Other Cancers Fall, Lung Cancer Rises
In Europe most other types of cancer have fallen while lung cancer has risen. The reason appears to be rooted in the swinging sixties.
As the increase in smoking took place during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and in recent years there has actually been a decline in smoking, it is likely that this trend will not continue indefinitely. Instead, within 20 years or so we should see rates of lung cancer in women decline again.
However, some forms of cancer are remaining at constant levels. Pancreatic cancer is still killing men and women at a steady rate. The main reason why pancreatic cancer deaths are not falling is because treatment is rarely effective – by the time the cancer is spotted it is usually spreading and can very quickly close down vital organs.
References and Further Reading
- European cancer mortality predictions for the year 2013 by M. Malvezzi et al. Ann Oncol (2013) doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdt010. First published online: February 12, 2013.
- Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer – NHS
Lung Cancer: A general introduction to Lung Cancer. NHS Evidence website
- Lung cancer – A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.
Lung cancer image by Nephron.