MIAMI (AFP/AP) – Lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among women in developed nations, beating out breast cancer which had long been the top killer, researchers said Wednesday.
The new analysis was led by researchers at the American Cancer Society in collaboration with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in France.
Researchers said the change reflects trends in tobacco use. Lung cancer has been the top cancer killer among men for several decades in both developed and developing nations.
The tobacco epidemic took hold later among women than it did in men.
In less developed nations, breast cancer remains the leading cancer killer among women.
The findings are published in Global Cancer Statistics, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, and Global Cancer Facts and Figures 3rd Edition.
The data comes from worldwide estimates of cancer incidence and mortality produced by the IARC in 2012.
Globally, there were about 14 million new cancer cases and eight million cancer deaths in 2012, the most recent year for which numbers are available.
“Developing countries account for 57 per cent of cancer cases and 65 per cent of cancer deaths,” Torre said.
For men, lung cancer has been the leading cause of cancer death globally for several decades.
In poor countries, breast cancer remains the top cancer killer for women. Colon cancer has grown as a cause of death worldwide.
As for the number of cases diagnosed, prostate and breast are the most common cancers in men and women, respectively, in rich countries. Lung cancer became the top cancer killer for men in the 1950s, and for women in the late 1980s, reflecting trends in smoking rates.
Smoking rates have leveled off or dropped in rich countries. In the United States, “we are already seeing lung cancer death rates decline,” Torre said.
The American Institute for Cancer Research says half of all cancers are preventable. Healthy diets and getting enough exercise cut risk. The hepatitis vaccine helps prevent liver cancer; the HPV vaccine lowers the risk of getting cervical cancer. The biggest factor: Stop smoking, or don’t start. Quitting by middle age can avoid 60 per cent of the risk of dying of lung cancer, Torre said. “It’s never too late to quit.”