WOMEN AND LUNG CANCER
As women, we are often
led to believe that breast cancer is our greatest cancer risk. In
fact, lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in females,
surpassing breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer.
Females develop lung cancer at an earlier age and often die younger
than their male counterparts. Smoking is the main culprit and is
responsible for 80% of cancer deaths in women. A woman who smokes
the same number of cigarettes as a man is twice as likely to develop
lung cancer. Smoking rates among women have now surpassed that of
men. Twenty-three million women (23% of the U.S. population)
continue to smoke cigarettes despite efforts to promote smoking
cessation, and educate men and women on the diseases directly caused by
cigarette smoke. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in
this country, yet greater than 140,000 women die each year secondary to
smoking related causes, more than 60,000 of which are due to lung
Lung cancer has always
been perceived as an illness of the middle-aged or elderly, but doctors
throughout the country are seeing increasing numbers of women in their
thirties or early forties dying from the disease. The type of lung
cancer killing women in this age group is slightly different than that
which commonly targets older men. Men with lung cancer tend to
have not only a history of smoking, but also have a history of
bronchitis, and their cancer comes to light secondary to repeated
pulmonary infections. Lung cancer in younger women tends to be
more advanced at the time of initial diagnosis. Many believe that
this is due to the type of cigarettes women are smoking. Women
tend to smoke low-tar cigarettes, therefore inhaling smaller particles
which can travel further in the lungs, causing damage at a deeper level.
Another key to tumor risk, as reported by a study from Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Center in New York, lies in men having a greater ability to
detoxify toxins present in cigarette smoke. The presence of the female
hormone estrogen is also a known factor in promoting cancer
development in women.
Lung cancer survival
rates are extremely low. Only 6.4% of women survive five years
with lung cancer compared to 77.5% of women with breast cancer.
Therefore, continue to encourage family and friends to stop smoking, and
support them in their endeavors.
For more information on
lung cancer, please visit