Lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the biggest killer of Australian women with cancer, as females who started smoking in the 1970s and 1980s as they gained equal rights with men are diagnosed with the deadly disease.

More than 50 Australian women lost their battle with lung cancer every week in 2005 and the number will rise to almost 65 female deaths a week in 2010, said a report released Friday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

As society changed in the 1970s and 1980s and women enjoyed the same freedoms as men, they took up cigarettes at a growing rate, while an anti-smoking message began to hit home for men and their smoking rate fell, said the report.

As a result, lung cancer rates are expected to grow by 0.4 per cent a year until 2010 for women and fall by 1.1 per cent for men, it said.

“In the past the tobacco industry targeted female smokers with advertising suggesting that smoking is glamorous or fashionable,” said Kylie Lindorff, policy manager at the government’s anti-smoking unit Quit.

“Unfortunately, these active campaigns to recruit female smokers are now translating into higher lung cancer deaths.”

In 2005, for the first time, there were more than 100,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia and the number is projected to grow by more than 3,000 extra cases a year in 2006-2010, mainly due to Australia’s aging population.

There were 44,356 women diagnosed with cancer in 2005.

Breast cancer was the most common form of the disease for women, accounting for about a quarter of diagnoses, but the death rate from breast cancer has fallen due to a national breast screening program.

“The distressing part about it is that whereas there is less you can do about preventing breast cancer, lung cancer is entirely preventable by controlling smoking,” said Cancer Council of Australia chief executive Ian Olver.

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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