News | January 28, 2015

Lung Cancer Deaths to Exceed Breast Cancer Deaths for EU Women in 2015

Total cancer deaths expected to drop except for lung cancer in women and pancreatic cancer in both sexes

cancer, lung, breast, EU, European Union, death rates, 2015

January 28, 2015 — Death rates from lung cancer will exceed those for breast cancer for the first time among European women in 2015, according to the latest predictions published in the cancer journal Annals of Oncology.

The study by researchers in Italy and Switzerland predicts that although the actual number of deaths from all cancers in the European Union (EU) will continue to rise due to growing populations and numbers of elderly people, the rate of cancer deaths will continue to decline overall, with some notable exceptions: lung cancer in women and pancreatic cancer in both sexes.

In women, the predicted age-standardized rate of deaths from lung cancer will increase by 9 percent from 2009 to 14.24 per 100,000 of the population, while the death rates from breast cancer are predicted to be 14.22 per 100,000, which represents a fall of 10.2 percent since 2009. However, the total number of deaths will remain slightly higher for breast cancer (90,800) than for lung (87,500).

Carlo La Vecchia, M.D., professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Milan (Italy), one of the study authors, said: "We still have to be cautious about the lung cancer rates in women since these are predictions. The data for real death rates in 2015 in the EU as a whole will be available in three to four years. Further caution is required due to the fact that the absolute numbers of deaths in 2015 remains higher for breast than for lung. However, the 2015 predictions confirm our projections on long-term trends made two years ago that lung cancer death rates would overtake breast cancer in women around 2015."

The overall death rate for lung cancer among women is being driven by women in the U.K. and Poland, with predicted rates of 21 and 17 per 100,000 in the U.K. and Poland, respectively. These rates are more than double those in Spain, which has a lung cancer death rate among women of just over eight per 100,000.

"U.K. and Polish women, particularly U.K. women, have long had much higher lung cancer rates than most other European countries (except Denmark, which is not considered separately in this study). This is due to the fact that British women started smoking during the Second World War, while in most other EU countries women started to smoke after 1968. It is worrying that female lung cancer rates are not decreasing in the U.K., but this probably reflects the fact that there was an additional rise in smoking prevalence in the U.K. as well in the post-1968 generation - those born after 1950," said La Vecchia. "However, despite the relatively lower rates of women dying from lung cancer in other EU countries, the trends are less favourable in some countries, particularly in France and Spain."

The study predicts that there will be a total of 1,359,100 deaths from cancer in the 28 member states of the EU in 2015 (766,200 men and 592,900 women), corresponding to an age-standardized rate of 138.4 per 100,0000 men and 83.9 per 100,000 women. This represents a fall of 7.5 percent and 6 percent in men and women respectively since 2009, and an overall fall of 26 percent in men and 21 percent in women since the peak of cancer death rates in 1988. More than 325,000 deaths will be avoided in 2015 compared with the 1988 peak rate.

The study looked at cancer rates in the 28 EU member states as a whole and also in the six largest countries — France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK — for all cancers, and, individually, for stomach, intestines, pancreas, lung, prostate, breast, uterus (including cervix) and leukaemias. This is the fifth consecutive year the researchers have published these predictions.

For more information:  www.annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent

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