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article imageStudy: Lung cancer 'to surpass breast cancer' in European women

By Yukio Strachan     Feb 16, 2013 in Health
A new study released Wednesday found that lung cancer will surpass breast cancer as the top cause of cancer deaths in European women.
"In 2015 lung cancer is going to be the first cause of cancer mortality in Europe, " said coauthor Carlo La Vecchia, MD, head of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mario Negri Institute and professor of medicine at Milan University in Italy.
In some countries, this is already the case. For instance, more women die from lung cancer than from breast cancer in the United Kingdom and Poland, according to the nine page report published online in the Annals of Oncology.
Lung cancer kills 16,000 women a year in the UK, compared with 12,000 for breast cancer, UK's Telegraph reports.
In the study, "European cancer mortality predictions for the year 2013" La Vecchia and colleagues used the World Health Organization (WHO) mortality and population databases and the latest available data (2009 and 2010) from the European Union to analyze data for all 27 countries in the European Union.
From there, they analyzed data for 6 countries: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, its six more populous countries, the report states.
In doing so, researchers found that in 2013, some 82,640 European women will die from lung cancer, while 88,886 will die from breast cancer. This represents a 7% drop breast cancer deaths since 2009.
"This reflects important and accumulating advances in treatment, as well as screening and early diagnosis, " said coauthor La Vecchia.
It wasn't the same when it came to lung cancer. There has been an increase in deaths from lung cancer in women in all countries included in this survey. Since 2009, lung cancer deaths have increased by 7%.
"This predicted rise of female lung cancer in the United Kingdom may reflect the increased prevalence of young women starting smoking in the late 1960s and 1970s," said La Vecchia in a statement.
Despite the grim statistics, "we expect death rates to start to go down in around 2020 or 2025 now that the new generation of women are smoking less."
Key Takeaway: improve lung cancer prevention
Driving down the disease’s death toll will require integrated efforts to improve lung cancer prevention, said coauthor Fabio Levi, MD, head of the cancer epidemiology unit at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Carcinogens in tobacco smoke is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer.
Prevention is particularly important for "middle-aged men and women (i.e., the European generations most heavily exposed to smoking)," he said in a statement, according to medscape. "If more people could be helped and encouraged to give up smoking or to not take it up in the first place, hundreds of thousands of deaths from cancer could be avoided each year in Europe," he noted.
But that's not the only group, Sarah Williams of Cancer Research UK told the BBC.
"Every year 157,000 children in the UK alone, start smoking," she said. "We must try to stem that tide."
More about Lung cancer, Breast Cancer, European women, Cigarette smoking, Carcinogen
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