Lung cancer now most lethal form of disease for women

Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the most lethal form of the disease for women in the UK, research reveals today.

Scientists predict that by the middle of the decade it will be the main cause of women’s cancer death in Europe.

New figures show that the lung cancer death rate among women in the UK now stands at 21 per 100,000 women.

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Lung cancer has bucked the general trend over falling cancer mortality. Since 2009 the proportion of European men dying from cancer has dropped by six per cent and of women by four per cent.

Deaths from lung cancer have risen by seven per cent for women since 2009.

This year experts predict breast cancer will kill 88,886 women in Europe and lung cancer will kill 82,640.

Prof Carlo La Vecchia, one of the study authors from the University of Milan, said: “If these opposite trends in 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.”

He said the increased number of lung cancers among women may be due to them taking up smoking in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Among European men, lung cancer death rates had fallen six per cent since 2009. However, the disease was still the main cause of male cancer death.

The study, in the journal Annals of Oncology, looked at cancer death rates throughout the European Union, focusing primarily on six countries including the UK.