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Lung cancer in women climbing

First comprehensive report of lung cancer statistics shows effects of smoking in women.

Lung cancer cases have soared among women but fallen for men, a new government report shows.

Rates of the disease surged 72 per cent for women while they fell by nearly a third for men between 1982 and 2007, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report said.

Survival rates for both sexes have also shown only small improvements with 11 per cent of men still alive five years after being diagnosed compared to 15 per cent of women.

Experts attribute the rise in the number of cases among women to an effective catch up of the long-term health effects of smoking, which is the leading cause of lung cancer.

"The different pattern of lung cancer incidence rates in males and females would have been affected by different histories of tobacco smoking," the report said.

"The rate of male smoking began to decline in the middle of the 20th century, which resulted in a sharp decline in the lung cancer incidence rate for males from the 1980s onwards.”

“The prevalence of smoking in females peaked much later than in males (around the mid-1970s), which may explain the continued increase in the lung cancer incidence rate for females.”

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said the sharp rise in lung cancer among women meant more needed to be done to "de-glamourise" smoking.

"If you look at the number of cigarette brands targeting women today, you can see how much effort the tobacco companies put into making the pack a sleek, stylish fashion accessory," he said.

"The rate of smoking among Australian teenagers aged 14 to 17 is higher for girls than boys, so it's important we remove the glamour that some young women associate with smoking.”

“Federal parliament has an ideal opportunity to do that now by passing the plain packaging for tobacco bills."

The report said tobacco smoking was the largest single cause of lung cancer in Australia, responsible for about 90 per cent of lung cancers in men and 65 per cent in women.

Compared with non-smokers, smokers have more than a 10-fold increased risk of developing lung cancer.

A total of 4,715 men and 2,911 women died from lung cancer in 2007, making the disease the leading cause of cancer deaths for both sexes.

On a state-by-state basis, the highest number of lung cancer cases among men was recorded in the Northern Territory while for women it was Tasmania.

The lowest number of cases for both sexes was recorded in the ACT.

The report, released last week, was the first comprehensive summary of national statistics on lung cancer in Australia.


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