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Gender gap for lung cancer rates narrowing
Broadest-to-date U.S. lung cancer study compares gender with incidence and survival
Northbrook, Ill. - Results of the most comprehensive analysis to date of the impact of gender differences in lung cancer incidence in the United States indicate that lung cancer rates among men are on the decline, while the rate in women remains steady. A new study in the March issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, shows that, in addition to the unequal incidence of lung cancer in men and women, there are other gender-linked differences, including subtype of lung cancer and survival rate.
"Traditionally, lung cancer has been viewed as a disease of older male smokers, but that is not necessarily the case," said the study's author, Gregory P. Kalemkerian, M.D., co-director of Thoracic Oncology at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. "This data supports the fact that lung cancer is becoming a bigger problem in women every year. If these current trends continue, in 10 to 15 years, the incidence of lung cancer will be identical for women and men."
Researchers from U-M and Wayne State University analyzed data of 228,572 patients (81,843 women and 146,729 men) with lung cancer who were registered in the national, population-based Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database between 1974 and 1999. Researchers found that the incidence of lung cancer in men reached a peak in 1984, when 72.5 of every 100,000 men had the disease, then declined to 47 per 100,000 men in 1991. In sharp contrast, the incidence of lung cancer in women continued to rise to a peak with 33.1 per 100,000 women in 1991, and then remained relatively stable at 30.2 to 32.3 per 100,000 women from 1992 to 1999. These variations have resulted in a male/female incidence ratio change from 3.56:1 in 1975 to 1.5:1 in 1999. For both men and women, the median age of diagnosis was 66 years. Women made up 40.9 percent of patients under the age of 50 but only 35.4 percent of patients over the age of 50.
"The fact that women appear to be overrepresented among
women under the age of 50 is a reflection of increased smoking
prevalence among women, especially early in the study period,"
said Kalemkerian, associate professor of internal medicine
at the U-M Medical School. "There is still controversy
as to whether or not women are more susceptible to tobacco
carcinogens, but our findings suggest that women and men are
affected differently by their tobacco use. For example, nearly
half the women (44.7 percent) developed adenocarcioma, while
the men were most likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma
"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality for women in the United States," said Paul A. Kvale, M.D., FCCP, president of the American College of Chest Physicians. "Although it used to be considered a male smoker disease, this shortening gender gap clearly illustrates a behavior shift over recent years in women. This study reinforces the need for physicians to focus on women who are susceptible to lung cancer."
Press release courtesy of CHEST, www.chestjournal.org.
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