The Telegraph - 13 February 2013
Deaths from lung cancer have overtaken deaths from breast cancer as it becomes the most lethal form of the disease among British women, new research has shown.
Lung cancer kills 16,000 women a year in the UK, compared with 12,000 for breast cancer. The rise in lung cancer is attributed to the rise in young women taking up smoking the late 1960s and 1970s.
The Europe-wide study shows that despite an overall decline in cancer deaths, mortality rates from lung cancer among women continues to rise across the continent, up seven per cent to around 82,000 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 trends continue lung cancer will become the most lethal form of the disease in Europe.
She said: "If these opposite trends in breast and 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.
"This predicted rise of female lung cancer in the UK may reflect the increased prevalence of young women starting smoking in the late 1960s and 1970s, possibly due to changing socio-cultural attitudes at that time. "However, fewer young women nowadays in the UK and elsewhere in Europe are smoking and, therefore, deaths from lung cancer may start to level off after 2020 at around 15 per 100,000 women."
There has also been a steady reduction in breast cancer deaths across Europe in the last four years. Prof La Vecchia added: "This reflects the important and accumulating advances in the treatment, as well as screening and early diagnosis, of the disease."
The study, published in the Annals of Oncology, looked at cancer rates in all 27 European Union member countries, as well as six individual countries – France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK. It looked at all cancers but focused on stomach, intestine, pancreas, lung, prostate, breast, uterus (including cervix) and leukaemias.
The study found that an estimated 1.3 million people will die from cancer -737,747 men and 576,489 women- in the 27 countries of the EU in 2013. Though that number has increased since 2009, as there have been more cases in that period, the rate at which people have died has actually declined, six per cent in men and four per cent in women.
Lung cancer is still the main cause of cancer death among men, with nearly 187,000 deaths predicted for 2013, giving a death rate of 37.2 per 100,000 men.
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