Lung cancer rates in women fall for first time in decade
March 31st, 2011
06:01 PM ET

Lung cancer rates in women fall for first time in decade

For the first time in more than a decade, lung cancer death rates in women have dropped significantly according to a new report released Thursday by the National Cancer Institute.

Each year NCI–a division of the National Institutes of Health, The American Cancer Society, The North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases a report on the status of cancer in the United States.

"One of the most interesting things that we found was that during this latest time period of 2003-2007 lung cancer death rates in women decreased and this was the first time we've seen this decrease," said Betsy Kohler, executive director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. "It follows a long-term increase in lung cancer death rates for women during the period of 1975-2003. We saw this decline in lung cancer death rates in men beginning about 10 years ago."

While the report found a significant decrease in overall cancer death rates in both men and women since the early 1990s, death rates from liver cancer and melanoma in men, and liver and pancreatic cancers in women continue to rise.

Incidence rates–the rate of new cancers–in both men and women fell on average 1 percent a year, according to the report.  The decrease in cancer cases in men was not was not as significant as in women because the number of prostate cancer cases has gone up.

"It is gratifying to see the continued steady decline in overall cancer incidence and death rates in the United States - the result of improved methods for preventing, detecting and treating several types of cancer," said Dr. Harold Varmus, NCI director. "But the full repertoire of numbers reported today also reflects the enormous complexity of cancer."  Varmus add that as the population continues to age, more needs to be done to discover and deliver better ways to control all types of cancers.

Between 2003 and 2007, there was a decline in the cancer rates for five of the most common cancers found in men–lung, colorectal, oral, stomach and malignant brain tumors; but melanoma, kidney, pancreas and liver cancers increased. Women saw significant decreases in breast, lung, colorectal, uterus, cervix, bladder and oral cavity cancers, but the report showed increases in the incidence of melanoma, kidney and pancreas cancers.

White women had the highest new cancer rates among women.  Although breast cancer was the most diagnosed cancer in women of any racial/ethnic group, the number of new cases declined for all women. Among men, Black men had the highest number of new cancer cases.

New diagnoses of childhood cancers–in children from birth to 19 years of age, also increased across the board.  Pediatric brain cancer rates were lower than adults, but the tumors were more likely to be malignant.

For the first time, data are available on non-malignant brain tumors. That's because, Kohler says, on a national level cancer registries just started looking at non-malignant brain tumors in 2004. "This was also our first opportunity to look at non malignant brain tumors and the data from 2004 to 2007 show that non-malignant brain tumors occur about twice as often as malignant brain tumors."

Cancer organizations like the American Association for Cancer Research calls the progress remarkable. "The AACR is extremely pleased to learn of this remarkable progress against cancer, highlighted in the NCI report, released today," said Dr. Margaret Foti, chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research. "The reduction in incidence and mortality rates is illustrative of the progress in cancer research and the momentum built through increased knowledge, scientific collaboration, and advances in technology. It is truly a pivotal and exciting time for cancer research."

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. DrMallard

    Sounds like more and more women as well as men have seen the light and are kicking butts rather than kicking off at relatively young ages from a truly horrific disease. More power to 'em! Of course, the Official Corporate Media Examples – the S(t)upermodels, such as "People" Magazine-designated Kate "One of the 100 Most Beautiful People in the World" Moss – will keep on making ashes of themselves. (With the makeup off, she looks like 40 going on 60. Smoking does that to people's skin.) Anything to avoid gaining a gram or two and maybe not fitting into those outfits created by designers who seem to hate real women with curves.
    Ladies, toss the cigs, keep your curves and live longer and healthier lives – and let the fashion fascists take a long walk off a short pier, right into that water with all the big fins sticking out at the surface! Then again, PETA might come after me for saying that, since there's a risk that some poor, innocent shark might die from food poisoning.

    March 31, 2011 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Darth Vadik, CA

      I thought that smoking is on the rise again...

      March 31, 2011 at 19:44 | Report abuse |
    • dx2718

      Women are especially pressured to quit smoking if they plan to have children. And I imagine not many women quit during pregnancy and then go back to smoking, since 9 months without a cigarette would be long enough to weather withdrawal and rediscover taste, smell, and other uses for all that cigarette money.

      April 1, 2011 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
    • Survivors Spouse

      Not everyone with lung cancer smokes or ever smoked. That's the first question an idiot will ask "did you smoke". Well no, but have been exposed to construction material, asbestos and was in the Navy. Any more questions idiots????????

      April 1, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse |
  2. samysmum

    Dr Mallard,

    smoking is not always the primary cause of lung cancer. while lung cancer cases in women have declined, lung cancer diagnoses in non smoking women have INCREASED.

    I'd like to rid our culture of that horrible stigma. Please,people, it's time to change your way of thinking in regards to lung cancer. Lung cancer does not discriminate,neither should we. It is no longer a "smokers cancer"

    March 31, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dx2718

      Most nonsmokers who get lung cancer were exposed to a lot of second-hand smoke or other aerotoxins such as asbestos. Smoking still causes cancer, and a decrease in lung cancer can almost certainly be linked to a decrease in smoking *and* public smoking (due to bans), thus reducing second-hand smoke exposure.

      April 1, 2011 at 01:43 | Report abuse |
    • Basil

      You're right. There are other causes of lung cancer besides smoking or 2nd-hand smoke. Some victims have no idea what caused their lung cancer. We need to cease judgment, get rid of the stigma, and think of lung cancer patients just as any other cancer patient, without prejudging them. (That doesn't mean people shouldn't stop smoking, though, since it is a risk factor for many diseases, various types of cancer–including lung, and 2nd hand smoke is very harmful to others.)

      April 1, 2011 at 06:19 | Report abuse |
    • mx

      The vast majority of lung cancers are smoking related. Of course there are other risk factors, many of which can't be controlled but are exacerbated by tobacco smoke exposure. Anyone can limit their risk by not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke.

      April 1, 2011 at 08:44 | Report abuse |
    • TigerRX

      80% of Lung Cancers are Smoking related.....while there are some non-smokers that still get lung cancer it is still highly likely that those that suffer from lung cancer have smoking in their etiology somewhere.

      April 1, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
    • Survivors Spouse

      Thank you for our comment from the spouse of a non-smoking lung cancer survivor!

      April 1, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse |
    • Samysmum


      That is incorrect. 80% of new lung cancer diagnoses, are in people who have never smoked, have come from smoke free homes, and some unfortunatly are even children.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  3. fronco 123

    Expect an increase in the next 2 year due to airport ex-rays , this is going to be more devastating then the Aids virus, people should ask their doctor on air travel, or any x=ray tech, did you ever wonder why an x-ray tech wears protected clothing, its not that hard to figure out.

    April 1, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. isadore

    Every person I knew who died young (under 60) never smoked. I just lost a friend to breast cancer last week.. only 56 years old.
    We are all going to die one day, so just live your life. Live simply, use moderation in all you do, and harm none (with actions or words).

    April 1, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack Daws

      This is good advice. Who said that the longest life is the best life?

      April 1, 2011 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
  5. Jack Daws

    That's great news. Since lung cancer research is the most underfunded of all cancers, it is all the more surprising. Judging from the plethora of "pink" products being marketed, you would think breast cancer is the only affliction endangering women. You could also form the impression that males are not threatened by ANY diseases.

    April 1, 2011 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Brian L

    Why does CNN post a picture of a woman having a mammogram if the article is primarily about the decline of lung cancer rates among women?

    April 1, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Chris D

    Men no longer find smoking attractive, women stop, rates drop, end.

    April 1, 2011 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Bill

    Why is the period of interest (2003-2007) so old? Don't they have a way of studying moire recent stats?

    April 1, 2011 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. david

    Hey guys, will you visit HelpFaye.ORG a friend of mine is fighting for her life

    April 1, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Stephanie Perez

    I also have to say the majority of new lung cancer diagnoses are in never smkoers and in people who quit smoking decades ago...time to take the smoking question off the table. And Please people DO NOT think that because you never smoked you won't get lung cancer. It is the number one cancer killer and it hits everyone.....children as youg as 2 have been diagnosed. It is dangerous to think it can not affect you. I am so encouraged to hear this news of the death rate declining...it's a long time coming. We have som awesome people fighting for lung cancer research and support. Great news!!

    April 1, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. PK

    Don't you beliieve it! Three of my female neighbors died of lung cancer. Two were very heavy smokers who didn't quit soon enough. The third smoked until the day she died in complete denial that it was dangerous. True, there are other causes of lung cancer, but why take the chance? With the price of cigarettes today I'm glad I never started. If every smoker quit for a week, and put that money in a jar, add up what you could do with that for a year!!!

    April 1, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Katie

    My 59 year old daddy is fighting this disease, never smoked a day in his life. It's time to start paying more attention to this disease, it is not just a smoker's disease and can affect anyone.

    April 1, 2011 at 21:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. thierryjtaule

    there is a woman from austria named Veronica Mozer. she is the most famous scat p0rn actress. the woman has smoked all her life and she consumes mounds of human feces in her movies. she never got sick. i think this woman has a very strong immune system and doctors and scientists should study it. WATCH THE INTERVIEW ON YOU TUBE. its really shocking. but there could be something there to help us all. maybe its not the food you eat but the food you once ate

    April 2, 2011 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. thierryjtaule

    contact me and let me know of your opinions

    April 2, 2011 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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