Lung cancer remains biggest cancer killer among women, as new anti-smoking ad launched

Tuesday 11 May, 2010

The latest Victorian cancer statistics show lung cancer is killing more Victorian women than ever before and is the leading cause of cancer death among females - overtaking breast cancer for the second year running.

This huge loss of life is highlighted in a new anti-smoking campaign being aired across Victoria from tonight.

Dubbed "What's Worse?" - the ad shows a woman learning she has lung cancer from her doctor. In the next scene, we see her struggling to break the news to her children.

Quit Executive Director Fiona Sharkie said the ad urges smokers to think about the impact they're having on their loved ones by choosing to smoke.

"Although the number of smokers is now in decline,the deadly legacy of the years when female smoking rates were at their peak is only now becoming apparent."

"More women and families in Victoria are dealing with a lung cancer diagnosis than ever before, most of those because of smoking. Smokers need to realise: this could happen to you and your family. The best way to prevent it from happening is to quit."

Although the rate of men dying from lung cancer has declined since its high in the early eighties, women's mortality rates are only just reaching their peak. This is because women's smoking rates were at their highest much later than that of men.

Nurse Co-ordinator for the Lung Service at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Mary Duffy said the number of women she's been seeing with lung cancer has been increasing.

"I see what a lung cancer diagnosis does to these women and their families everyday. For many patients, telling their families they have lung cancer can be even harder than hearing the diagnosis themselves.For women with young children who rely on them for everything, there's probably nothing worse."

"Young children who come in often don't know what cancer is or why Mummy is sick. All they know is that their universe has been disrupted by hospital visits, treatments and the presence of strangers. This adjust touches on that awful scenario... the reality is even more heartbreaking."

Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, and smoking is responsible for more than 80% of cases.

Of course, it's not the only potentially fatal diagnosis smokers needed to be concerned about.

"One out of every two long-term smokers will die of a smoking caused illness,' said Quit Executive Director Ms Sharkie.

"If it's not lung cancer, it could be heart disease, pancreatic cancer or stroke just to name a few. Smokers need to realise they're not immune to this and their actions today can catch up with them later. The best thing a parent can do for themselves and their families is to quit."

  • Approximately 1 in 4 current smokers have children 12 years or younger.
  • A total of 10,450 Victorians lose a parent to a smoking related illness each year.
  • 2099 Victorians died from lung cancer in 2007, or about 40 people every week. The figure accounts for 20% of all cancer death in Victoria for that year.
  • 811 women died from lung cancer in 2007 - the most women who have ever died in any one-year from lung cancer in Victoria.
  • 982 women were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007 - the most who have ever been diagnosed in any one-year with lung cancer in Victoria.
  • Lung cancer overtook breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women in Victoria in 2006.
  • Lung cancer is the only common cancer among women for which mortality rates are actually increasing rather than decreasing.
  • Victorian women lost 4,333 years of potential life because of lung cancer in 2007 (The total number of years lost to premature death from lung cancer assuming all deaths before the age of 75 are premature)
  • The cancers with the next highest mortality rates among Victorian women are breast (708 women), bowel (634), pancreas (260) and ovary (228). One-fifth of pancreatic cancer cases in women over 35 are also linked to smoking.
  • Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer. Of those patients with lung cancer, only about 11% of males and 14% of females survive for five years after diagnosis.
  • The lag between smoking rates and lung cancer incidence is about 40 years.
  • The latest Victorian smoking figures show 16.5% of Victorian adults were regular smokers in 2008. Of that, 18.4% of males and 14.7% of females were regular smokers.
Updated: 11 May, 2010