Lung cancer deaths fall for women

April 2, 2011 - 0:0

American women have come a long way, and at last that includes the fact that they, like men, are finally dying less often from lung cancer.

More than a decade after the death rate from lung cancer among men started falling, the pace at which women are succumbing to the malignancy peaked in 2002 and dropped almost about 1 percent a year through at least 2007, researchers reported Thursday.
The milestone had been expected for years as the wave of smoking-related illness that arose as women began lighting up in large numbers finally ebbed after they began kicking the habit.
“They took it up a little later, so their increase has had a slow rise and now it’s finally starting to turn around,” said Brenda Edwards of the National Cancer Institute , which documented the decline Thursday in the latest analysis of the nation’s war on cancer, conducted annually with the American Cancer Society , the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries .
“Lung cancer deaths in women are now showing a statistically significant decline. It’s the first time,” Edwards said.
In addition to the turnaround in lung cancer deaths among women, the rates at which Americans are being diagnosed and are dying from many leading cancers continued falling, according to a paper published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“This is good news, and maybe the country can use a little good news about now,” said David Cutler, an economist at Harvard University who studies the impact of tobacco.
Overall, the rates at which cancer is being diagnosed — the incidence — fell for all racial and ethnic groups and both sexes between 2003 and 2007, the period covered by the report. The declines were driven by drops in major tumors such as lung and colorectal cancers in men and lung, breast and colorectal cancers in women. At the same time, deaths from many cancers continued to fall, including deaths from 10 of the top 15 cancers among men and for 11 of the top 15 cancers in women, including cancers of the breast lung, prostate, colon and rectum, ovaries, kidney, stomach, and brain.
“It’s great news,” said Ahmedin Jemal, the American Cancer Society’s vice president for surveillance research, noting that while blacks are still dying at a faster rate from cancer than whites, the gap between the races has also narrowed, especially among men.
Experts attributed the decline to a combination of factors, including most prominently the decline in smoking, as well as improved early detection with colonoscopies and mammography and better treatment helping reduce the toll from cancers of colon and breast. “Basically, we can cure you of cancer if we catch it early and take it out,” David Cutler said, an economist at Harvard University who studies the impact of tobacco. But the experts stressed that the score card against cancer remains mixed. Rates for many cancers continue to increase, both in their diagnoses and deaths, including melanoma and cancers of the liver, pancreas and uterus.
(Source: The Washington Post)