Lung cancer in women hits 20,000 cases

Cases of lung cancer in women have reached 20,000 a year in the UK for the first time since records began, according to new Cancer Research UK statistics.

Lung cancer rates in women have increased by 22%, soaring from around 14,200 cases diagnosed around 20 years ago (in 1993 there were 14,176 female lung cancer cases in the UK). There were 19,857 female lung cancer cases in 2011 and 20,483 in 2012, UK.

This equates to 65 per 100,000 women diagnosed with lung cancer between 2010 and 2012 compared to 53 per 100,000 women between 1993 and 1995 in the UK, giving a 22 per cent increase in age-standardised incidence rates based on annual average European 2013 age-standardised incidence rates of lung cancer (ICD -10 C33-C34) for the UK.

Despite falling smoking rates – and falling lung cancer rates among men – the number of lung cancer cases are yet to fall in women. This reflects different patterns in smoking behaviour, with men’s smoking peaking in the 1940s while women’s peaked around the 1970s.

More than 35,000 people die from lung cancer every year in the UK, almost 20,000 men and 16,000 women. Because of this, Cancer Research UK is focusing on lung cancer as part of its research strategy, and has already doubled its research spend on the disease over the last year.

The new areas of research include a way to study the disease once it has spread by isolating and studying individual tumour cells carried in a patient’s blood. This is part of a growing body of lung cancer research aimed at developing blood tests to monitor and understand how it changes and becomes resistant to drugs.

Professor Caroline Dive, a lead scientist on the project from thhe Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute said: “It really is devastating to see that the number of women diagnosed with lung cancer continues to climb. We also know survival remains poor and one of the problems is that lung cancer tends to be diagnosed at a late stage when it has already spread. Cancer is very difficult to treat once it has spread around the body.”

Nell Barrie, senior science communication manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s vital that we keep on fighting against lung cancer. It’s the biggest cancer killer in the UK so the Government and the health service must work to help smokers quit by providing more stop smoking services to help people give up this deadly addiction. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is stop. It’s also essential to invest in new techniques to improve treatment for patients.”

Aman Coonar, Clinical Advisor to Check4Cancer on lung cancer and a consultant at Papworth Hospital since 2007, commented: “Early detection is difficult in lung cancer. Cure rates are higher if lung cancer is detected early. A blood test – EarlyCDT© – that detects antibodies associated with lung cancer is being evaluated in a large clinical trial run by NHS Scotland.