Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK, figures have revealed.
Some 15,449 women died from lung cancer in 2010, compared to 11,556 from breast cancer the same year, according to statistics from Cancer Research UK .
While new data published last month by the charity suggests the number of women dying from breast cancer in the UK is in decline and is expected to drop almost 30% by 2030 – the number of women dying from lung cancer is on the increase.
The mortality rate has risen to around 31 deaths per 100,000 women from 18 per 100,000 women in 1971 – an increase of around 72%.
It accounts for around one-fifth (21%) of all cancer deaths in women, and kills more women each year than breast, uterine or ovarian cancers.
With the cancer becoming more common among women, a campaign is being launched next month to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease, and the need to diagnose it early.
Liz Darlison, Macmillan consultant nurse specialist, from University Hospitals of Leicester, said: “While the statistics paint a frightening picture, there’s a great deal that can be done to help ensure women are diagnosed earlier, treated earlier and live longer.
“By raising awareness of the tell-tale signs – for example, a persistent cough that lasts longer than three weeks – there’s the potential to save thousands of lives every year.”
Dr Mick Peake, consultant respiratory physician at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, said: “Although most women know that a lump in their breast could be a sign of cancer, awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer remains comparatively low.
“No doubt linked to this is the fact that patients in the UK are diagnosed at a later stage in their disease and, as a result, has significantly worse lung cancer survival rates compared to other major European countries.
“More needs to be done to raise awareness of the increasing incidence of lung cancer in women and to encourage early diagnosis – catch it early and it can be cured.”
Paula Chadwick, chief executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation , added: “Once considered a man’s disease, we need to get the message out that anyone can get lung cancer.
“Although it remains a devastating disease for many, if caught early, it can be treated more effectively.”
Lung Cancer Awareness Month starts November 1