Rates of lung cancer are continuing to rise in British women, with more than 18,000 cases diagnosed in 2009, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.

Incidence of the disease has reached 39.3 for every 100,000 women in the UK. This compares with a rate of 22.2 per 100,000 in 1975 when there were fewer than 8,000 cases.

Lung cancer cases mirror smoking rates around two to three decades earlier, since more than 80% of lung cancers are caused by tobacco.

Smoking was most prevalent among British women during the 1960s, when around 45% of women smoked. This has since fallen by more than half.

The new figures also show that the total number of UK lung cancer deaths stands at almost 35,000 per year. A total of 19,410 men and 15,449 women died from the disease in 2010.

Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, said: "These latest figures highlight the deadly impact of tobacco. The continuing rise of lungcancer in women reflects the high number of female smokers several decades ago when attitudes were different. Tobacco advertising hasn't appeared on UK television since 1965, but that didn't stop the marketing of cigarettes. New, more sophisticated marketing techniques have lured many hundreds of thousands into starting an addiction that will kill half of all long-term smokers.

"It's vital that the UK closes one of the last remaining loopholes that portrays smoking as something glamorous and normal, rather than the lethal product it truly is. Ending the packet racket and putting all cigarettes in plain packs with large health warnings is crucial. No one wants to see children take up smoking, and while plain packs won't stop everyone from smoking, it will give millions of children one less reason to start."