Lung cancer stalks women

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The Independent Online
LUNG cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the commonest cause of death among women under 30 in some parts of Britain, following a dramatic rise in its incidence among females.

The first 'atlas' of cancer in England and Wales identifies cancer 'hotspots', and the first data released highlights lung cancer, the most common malignancy in men and the second most common in women, claiming 40,000 lives each year.

There is wide variation between the best and worst districts, and the findings also confirm the soaring rate of lung cancer in younger women. In parts of the North-west of England, lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the commonest cause of death in this group. Men under 48 in Lancashire, Durham, Caernarvonshire and Powys are 76 per cent more likely to develop lung cancer than in the rest of the country.

The lung cancer data is released today by the Cancer Research Campaign, in advance of publication of the atlas, to galvanise support for a backbench Bill to ban tobacco advertising, which has its second reading on 11 February. The CRC is writing to MPs to alert them to the incidence of lung cancer in their area and urge support for the Bill.

Gordon McVie, CRC scientific director, said: 'The scientific and medical community is unanimous on the effect of cigarette advertising but has been completely unsuccessful in getting this government to change its mind.' The Treasury receives around pounds 6bn annually from tobacco revenues.

Nine thousand male deaths and 3,500 female deaths could be avoided annually if lung cancer incidence in the worst districts was reduced to that of Oxfordshire, Dorset, East Suffolk, Montgomery and Pembrokeshire, which had the lowest incidences, Professor McVie said. Men there were almost 90 per cent less likely to have lung cancer than those in the rest of England and Wales.

The atlas shows that several northern districts have joined London and the Home Counties as high-risk areas for lung cancer. Women over 45 in Northumbria are 34 per cent more likely to have the disease - the same risk for London and the Home Counties - than women in the rest of the country.