Lung cancer in women in England increased by 10% between 1987 and 2006, climbing from 32.3 cases per 100,000 to 35.4 per 100,000 during the 19-year period.
While preventing smoking is key to reducing lung cancer, most of the work to encourage people to give up cigarettes has been focused on men, the report published by the South West Public Health Observatory indicates.
And it highlights the need for a greater focus on targeting women with anti-smoking messages if lung cancer rates are to be reduced. Among men, the rate of lung cancer fell from 70.4 per 100,000 in 2000 to 59.4 per 100,000 in 2007 in the UK. The figures are said to illustrate the trend of a decline in cases in men.
The research on prevalence of the disease in women will be published at the British Thoracic Society’s (BTS) winter meeting on Friday.
Dr Paul Beckett, chair of the BTS advisory group on lung cancer and respiratory physician at Burton Hospitals NHS Trust in Staffordshire, said: “Lung cancer is one of the UK’s biggest killers and we really need to focus on reducing rates across all groups in society.
“Clearly, targeting cigarette smoking is key to achieving this but it’s also very important to catch the disease early. I’d urge anyone who is worried about symptoms such as cough and breathlessness to visit their GP and to consider getting a chest x-ray. While it’s encouraging to see that improvements are being made in the treatment of lung cancer, we need to work on removing variations in care and make sure everyone across the country is receiving the same excellent quality of care.”
The Government said it was committed to achieving better outcomes for all cancer patients by improving early diagnosis and ensuring they have the treatment and support they need.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Up to 10,000 lives a year could be saved if England’s survival rates were brought up to the best levels in Europe. We are looking carefully at how best to achieve early diagnosis and have already announced a new campaign starting in January to alert people to the early signs and symptoms of lung, bowel and breast cancer.”