Why do more and more women develop lung cancer?
There is a worrying trend: More and more women are developing lung cancer. In the past, men were actually more likely to develop lung cancer than women. However, this now seems to have changed.
In their current research, scientists from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute have found that women are becoming increasingly diagnosed with lung cancer. In the meantime, even more women are affected by lung cancer than men. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "New England Journal of Medicine".
The good news is that fewer and fewer people between the ages of 30 and 60 develop lung cancer. The reason for this should be clear: fewer and fewer people smoke. Even so, more than 25 percent of cancer deaths in the United States are caused by smoking, experts say. So if people want to take care of their health and avoid cancer, stop smoking.
Women between the ages of 30 and 49 are more likely to have cancer than men
Men have had lung cancer more often than women for decades, but an examination of so-called Generation X women (women born in the 1960s and 1970s) found that this trend has changed. Since men in previous generations were more likely to smoke cigarettes than women, men also had higher lung cancer rates than women. However, this has changed in recent times. Women aged 30 to 49 now have lung cancer more often than men of the same age, the doctors explain.
Special cigarettes led to more female smokers
Given that cigarette manufacturers began selling cigarette brands to women in the 1970s, the result is not surprising. The first cigarette specially developed for women, Virginia Slims, was launched in 1968. At that time, the advertising campaign aimed to combine cigarette smoking with the women's liberation movement.
The smoking rate of women rose dramatically in the 1990s
In fact, smoking behavior has changed over time and more and more women have adopted the unhealthy habit, although women still smoke a little less than men. The smoking rate among women and girls then increased dramatically in the 1990s, certainly due to the marketing of tobacco companies. Special cigarettes for women, such as Philip Morris' Virginia Slims, have apparently helped women smoke more and more, explains study author Ahmedin Jemal of the American Cancer Society
Which women are particularly at risk?
Between 1995 and 1999, the incidence of lung cancer (number of diseases per 100,000 women per year) was 26 percent lower in women aged 44 to 49 than in men of the same age. But between 2010 and 2014, the incidence of lung cancer among these women was eight percent higher than among men, the doctors explain. The higher lung cancer rate among women applies to non-Hispanic white and Hispanic women, the researchers continue. The lung cancer rate among female non-Hispanic blacks and Asians and Pacific islanders in the United States is not yet higher than among men, but is approaching this value, the experts explain.
There are three hypotheses
Because women still smoke a little less than men, the scientists believe that another factor could play an important role. There are three hypotheses about what could have increased women's cancer risk, Jemal explains.
Can women find it harder to quit smoking?
Some studies suggest that smoking women are less likely to quit smoking compared to smoking men. Over time, the risk of lung cancer decreases if people stop smoking, even if the risk of so-called adenocarcinoma increases for a long time after quitting smoking. In general, the risk of lung cancer drops by 25 percent in the first five years after quitting. After a decade, it will decrease by 50 percent. If people stop smoking for 20 or more years, the risk is reduced by as much as 90 percent, the expert adds.
Are women just more prone to smoking?
It is also possible that women are more susceptible to the negative health effects of smoking, which get worse over time, explains Jemal. In addition, the occurrence of so-called light cigarettes has changed smoking behavior so that the risk of cancer increases. The volume of the trains is larger and the frequency of the trains is higher, so that the relative risk of lung cancer when smoking is 25 times higher than among non-smokers, says Jemal.
Do women get non-smoking lung cancer more often?
Around two to three decades ago, the cancer risk among smokers compared to non-smokers increased tenfold, which was attributed to tobacco consumption, the scientists explain. However, about ten percent of men and 15 percent of women with lung cancer have never smoked. As a result, some women may be more susceptible to non-smoking lung cancer, Jemal explains. However, there is still no evidence for this thesis.
Non-smokers live longer
The message continues to be that people should quit smoking for their health, the researchers emphasize. In addition, the earlier smokers quit smoking, the better. When people quit smoking at 30, they can live an average of about ten additional years of life, while a person in their sixties will live an average of three or four years longer if they quit. No matter what age, it always makes sense to quit smoking. However, it is best if people do not start smoking at all, the doctors explain. (as)