Lung Cancer Deadlier Than Breast Cancer For Women
While women may fear breast cancer more than other cancers, the American Cancer
Society reports that lung cancer will be responsible for 25% of women's cancer
deaths this year, while breast cancer will account for 15% of women's cancer
deaths. In fact, lung cancer has been the leading cancer killer of U.S.
women since 1987. While it is true that breast cancer affects more women, lung
cancer consistently claims more lives.
Five-year survival rates for lung cancer are now 15%, which is only slightly
better than the 12% survival rates of 30 years ago. Five year survival rates
for breast cancer have now reached 88%.
While rates of lung cancer have been declining among men for many years, women's
rates have actually increased until recently, when they began to level off.
Cigarette smoking is the big culprit. Women who smoke are more likely to develop
lung cancer at a younger age than men and as a result of being exposed to lower
levels of smoke.
Women are also more likely than men to develop small-cell lung cancer, which
spreads quickly, and adenocarcinoma, which accounts for about 40% of lung cancer
cases in women. Adenocarcinoma is more difficult to treat because it involves
cells lining the internal organs, in contrast with squamous cell lung cancers
that begin on the surface of the lungs.
Why are women at a disadvantage with respect to lung cancer? The prevailing
hypothesis is that estrogen may play a role in stimulating the growth of existing
lung cancer cells. The good news is that women diagnosed with the same type
of lung cancer as men often have a better prognosis, according to data gathered
by the Society for Women's Health Research.
Created: 3/3/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.