With February 4 being World Cancer Day, a coinciding report has found that lung cancer has recently surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in developed countries.
Researchers with the American Cancer Society and International Agency for Research on Cancer found that due to the late on-set smoking epidemic among women, lung cancer deaths are now catching up and exceeding breast cancer deaths in developed countries. Lung cancer has been the number one leading cause of cancer death among men for decades in both developed and developing countries.
In developing countries, breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in females.
The American Cancer Society’s 2015 Cancer Statistics report estimates that 71,660 women will die of lung cancer in the U.S. in 2015, while 40,290 will die of breast cancer. Though breast cancer remains one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in women, fatality rates have decreased by 35 per cent from peak rates due to improvements in detection and treatment.
While smoking is on the decline across the board, long-term effects of tobacco use among women are now beginning to appear. Besides smoking, major risk factors for lung cancer include second-hand smoke, radon, asbestos, air pollution, genetics and other environmental factors.
In 1985, a Canadian government survey showed that 35 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 considered themselves smokers, while in 2012, this number fell to just over 15 per cent.
In Canada, 2009 estimates show that women have a one in 14 chance of developing lung cancer, compared to one in 12 for men. The same estimates report women have a higher chance of developing breast cancer, with rates as high as one in nine.
But due to treatment options, survival rates for lung cancer are much lower. The Canadian Cancer Society reports that an estimated 9,700 women died from lung cancer in 2014 while 5,000 died from breast cancer.
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