Lung Cancer Kills More Women Than Breast Cancer in Europe

Women need to be aware of the symptoms of the UK’s biggest cancer killer after a new report revealed more would die from lung cancer than breast cancer.

Death rates from lung cancer will exceed those for breast cancer for the first time among European women in 2015, according to the latest predictions published in the leading cancer journal Annals of Oncology.

In women, the rate of deaths from lung cancer will increase by 9% from 2009 to 14.24 per 100,000 of the population, while the death rates from breast cancer are predicted to fall by 10.2%.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “Many people will not be aware that in the UK, lung cancer has been the biggest cancer killer of women for many years.
“It is sad to see that it is now also killing more women than breast cancer in Europe as well.

“One of the best ways we can try to stop the death toll from lung cancer among women is by raising awareness of the signs and symptoms.

“The majority of women can tell you that a lump on their breast may be a sign of breast cancer but how many know that a persistent cough could be a sign of lung cancer?”

Professor Carlo La Vecchia (MD), professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Milan (Italy), one of the study authors, said: “UK and Polish women, particularly UK women, have long had much higher lung cancer rates than most other European countries (except Denmark, which is not considered separately in this study).

“This is due to the fact that British women started smoking during the Second World War, while in most other EU countries women started to smoke after 1968. It is worrying that female lung cancer rates are not decreasing in the UK, but this probably reflects the fact that there was an additional rise in smoking prevalence in the UK as well in the post-1968 generation – those born after 1950,” said Prof La Vecchia. “However, despite the relatively lower rates of women dying from lung cancer in other EU countries, the trends are less favourable in some countries, particularly in France and Spain.”

Co-author, Fabio Levi (MD), Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne, (Switzerland), said: “While the downward trends in overall cancer death rates is good news, smoking still remains the greatest cause of cancer deaths in the EU. For instance, smoking probably accounts for 15 to 25 percent of all pancreatic cancers, 85 to 90 percent of all lung cancers, and is implicated in a number of other cancers too. The differences in death rates between European countries remains a concern, with higher rates in the member states that joined most recently, such as the central and eastern European countries.”

Professor Paolo Boffetta (MD), the Annals of Oncology associate editor for epidemiology and Director of the Institute of Translational Epidemiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York (USA), commented: “The decrease in overall cancer mortality rates among European men and women which started in the 1990s does not seem to slow down: this is the major favourable conclusion of the 2015 report. On the other hand, the continuing increase in lung cancer mortality among European women represents a challenge for cancer control, and the steady increase in pancreatic cancer deserves high priority for research.”

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