Lung cancer rates still increasing; young women most affected

A report published today by the National Cancer Registry (Lung cancer incidence, mortality treatment and survival in the Republic of Ireland 1994-2008) shows that while both incidence and mortality rates from lung cancer are falling in men, the incidence rate in women is increasing by over 2% per year, with the largest increase (4% a year) in women under 55. Lung cancer has now overtaken breast cancer as the cancer most likely to cause death in women.

The report shows, however, that outcomes of treatment are improving for both sexes. The percentage of patients who were alive five years after diagnosis went from 8% in 1994-1999 to 11% in 2004-2007. This was despite the fact that early diagnosis was no more common in the later period; however the numbers having chemotherapy doubled in 10 years. Men, older patients, smokers and those living in more deprived areas had a poorer survival from their cancers.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Harry Comber, Director of the National Cancer Registry, said “Despite the good news with regard to improved survival, the continuing increase in lung cancer cases and deaths in women, particularly in younger women, is a cause for concern. This is a cancer which is almost completely preventable”

Other findings in the report are that

  • Over 90% had surgery in specialist cancer centres; this percentage did not change between 1996 and 2008.
  • Older patients, those living in the south and west of Ireland and those living in deprived area were less likely to have active treatment.
  • The percentage of patients having chemotherapy went from 15% in 1996-1999 to 32% in 2004-2007.
  • Survival from lung cancer at five years from diagnosis was 10.9%, similar to that in Northern Ireland (10.7%) but lower than in the US (15.7%).

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