Deaths among women with lung cancer are predicted to rise by almost half before 2030, as the harmful legacy of tobacco firms’ targeting female smokers in the 20th century continues to unfold.
Among women with the disease across 52 countries the average mortality rate is due to increase by 43 per cent between 2015 and 2030, according to research published in the journal Cancer Research on Wednesday.
Wealthier nations are expected to have the highest death rates in 12 years’ time, and this is likely to be highest of all in Europe and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), followed by the Americas and Asia.
“Different timelines have been observed in the tobacco epidemic across the globe,” said Dr Jose Martinez-Sanchez, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist from UIC Barcelona.
“This is because it was socially acceptable for women to smoke in the European and Oceanic countries included in our study many years before this habit was commonplace in America and Asia, which reflects why we are seeing higher lung cancer mortality rates in these countries.”
While the rise of e-cigarettes could help drive down these future death rates, the researchers say the evidence of these as quitting aids is “contradictory and scarce”.
Preventing people smoking in the first place remains the most effective way to cut lung cancer rates, however tobacco companies have focused more on developing nations as restrictions have come in across Europe and elsewhere so deaths will continue to rise globally without action.
The mortality rates were calculated as the number of lung cancer deaths for every 100,000 years lived by the population of each country – a way to standardise deaths in countries with differing life expectancy.
Lung cancer deaths globally are set to rise from 11.2 deaths per 100,000 years, to 16 deaths in 2030. Only Oceania was expected to see any decline in its lung cancer death rates.
Breast cancer death rates are set to fall by nine per cent in this period. This is a result of screening programmes and treatment advances which can catch and tackle breast cancer early, while in the UK and elsewhere lung cancer survival has hardly changed because too many cancers are only caught at a late stage.
Across the 52 countries studied by Dr Martinez-Sanchez and his team, their findings suggest lung cancer will have overtaken breast cancer in 26 nations.
The group used World Health Organisation data for their research but did not have enough robust information from African nations to include it in the study – another factor hampering efforts to cut smoking and cancer deaths.
“While we have made great strides in reducing breast cancer mortality globally, lung cancer mortality rates among women are on the rise worldwide,” said Dr Martinez-Sanchez.
“If we do not implement measures to reduce smoking behaviours in this population, lung cancer mortality will continue to increase throughout the world.”
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