Diagnosis of lung cancer doubles to 1.4m in 30 years

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The number of lung cancer cases worldwide has doubled in the past 30 years and is growing faster than any other cancer, driven by cigarette smoking.

The number of lung cancer cases worldwide has doubled in the past 30 years and is growing faster than any other cancer, driven by cigarette smoking.

More than 1.4 million cases were diagnosed in 2002, up from 600,000 in 1975. Lung cancer is among the most lethal cancers, with fewer than one in seven victims surviving five years.

Cancer Research UK yesterday reported a worldwide growth in cancer as the global population ages. There were 10.9 million cases diagnosed in 2002 and 6.7 million deaths.

Cancer is more common in older age groups and the proportion of the world's population over 60 is set to double by 2050. Since 1975, cases of breast cancer have doubled to more than 1.1 million and there have been big rises in cancers of the bowel, liver and prostate.

In the UK the fastest rising cancers in the past five years have been malignant melanoma, the lethal form of skin cancer linked with sunburn, prostate cancer and cancer of the uterus.

Ruth Yates, statistics manager at Cancer Research UK, said the global patterns could yield clues on causes and cures. "Knowing which parts of the world have fewer cases of particular cancers can help us identify cultural factors, such as diet, smoking and drinking that affect the risk." Ageing explained most but not all of the increased risk, she said.

Breast cancer rates are also rising in most countries. The report says: "Breast cancer rates in developed countries could be half of current rates if women had larger family sizes and breastfed for longer, although such measures are generally agreed to be not practicable."

One encouraging trend was that rates of stomach cancer, the most common type of cancer in 1975, are falling, due to improved home hygiene and food preservation. Screening has also significantly reduced the number of women being diagnosed with cervical cancer, although it is becoming more prevalent in developing countries.

The report said that although the overall incidence of cancer was rising in the UK, death rates were falling. Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, said: "Thanks to research, many more people diagnosed with cancer in 2005 will survive compared to 1975."

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