Female Lung Cancer Rates Rise While They Drop For Males

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According to Cancer Council Australia, new research shows increased lung cancer rates in Australian women, adding urgency to further de-glamorize tobacco smoking. The research should plead an urgent call for the federal Parliament's passage of plain packaging for tobacco bills.

Professor Ian Olver, Cancer Council Australia CEO, states a net increase in lung cancer incidence in Australian women compared with men could be due to chronological differences in smoking behavior between the males and females, saying:

"Smoking prevalence in Australian men peaked in the 1940s while in women it was the mid-70s, so it's not surprising lung cancer rates in men are declining while they are on the rise in women. In the 1940s tobacco products were heavily promoted to men, while in the 1960s and '70s the tobacco companies sought to exploit the female market with brand names like "Slims", menthol cigarettes and packaging stylized to appeal to women."
He continues:

"If you look at a number of cigarette brands targeting women today, you can see how much effort the tobacco companies put into making the pack a sleek, stylish fashion accessory. The rate of smoking among Australian teenagers aged 14 to 17 is higher for girls than boys, so it's important we remove the glamour that some young women associate with smoking. Federal Parliament has an ideal opportunity to do that now by passing the plain packaging for tobacco bills."


Professor Olver pointed out study findings of differences in relative rates of lung cancer in Australian men and women and although the trends were alarming, he highlighted the importance of viewing the data in context with other key facts, such as:
  • Because of historical rates of men smoking, overall lung cancer incidence and mortality was still higher in Australian men than in women;
  • Compared with 10% of lung cancer cases in men, at least 30% of lung cancer cases in women were not associated with smoking;
  • With exception of the 14-17 year age group, there are still more Australian male smokers than female smokers;
  • In addition to supporting smoking reduction policies, investing more in lung cancer detection and treatment is crucial.
Professor Olver concludes:

"At a time when we've rightly been raising awareness of breast cancer and celebrating improvements in patient outcomes, it is important to remember that lung cancer claims the lives of more Australian women than any other cancer type, including breast cancer. Every cancer death is a tragedy and we need to do all we can to advance the prevention, detection and treatment of lung cancer in Australia."

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