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New data shows lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer in female cancer deaths

Friday 19 December, 2008

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed that lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the cause of the most cancer deaths in Australian women.

The report, released today, reveals that in 2005 more than 50 Australian women lost their battle with lung cancer every week. It is expected this figure will rise to almost 65 female deaths per week due to lung cancer in 2010.

Policy Manager at Quit, Ms Kylie Lindorff said the number of lung cancer deaths was a legacy from higher female smoking rates in 1970s and 1980s.

"There is a lag of several decades between when someone starts smoking and the development of lung cancer, so given that women's smoking rates peaked in the late 1970's we don't expect to see falls in the number of lung cancer deaths in women for some time."

"In the past the tobacco industry targeted female smokers with advertising suggesting that smoking is glamorous or fashionable, and unfortunately these active campaigns to recruit female smokers are now translating into higher lung cancer deaths."

"Although tobacco advertising is now mostly banned, we'd be kidding ourselves if we think the tobacco industry isn't still using sneaky tactics to try and promote smoking to young girls."

Ms Lindorff said that perhaps the most tragic part of lung cancer is that nearly all of the deaths could have been prevented.

"Smoking is responsible for around 80 to 90% of all lung cancer cases, and these cases could have been prevented if people had not started smoking in the first place or had quit before it was too late."

"Sadly, lung cancer continues to have one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers. This is because many patients present with advanced stages of this deadly disease and may have other health problems related to tobacco smoking. Therefore their prognosis for a complete recovery is very poor."

The figures released today emphasised the importance of stepping up efforts to reduce smoking rates, said Ms Lindorff.

"There is no doubt that a sustained commitment to tobacco control and mass media campaigns will lay the foundations to reduce the devastating toll of smoking."

"If the Rudd Government can deliver on tobacco control and adopt the recommendations of their Preventative Health Taskforce to reduce tobacco consumption through price increases and social marketing, we will be heading for a future where the statistics on lung cancer are not so grim."

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