Data shows lung cancer an increasing danger for women
ELEANOR HALL: New data out today suggests lung cancer could soon claim more lives than breast cancer amongst Australian women.
A study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare predicts a 40 per cent rise in the number of lung cancer cases in women in 10 years.
The study also says that while the rates of most cancers are expected to remain stable in Australia, more Australians are likely to suffer from cancer because of the country's ageing population, as Emma Jolliff reports.
EMMA JOLLIFF: For years the mantra of the anti-tobacco lobby has been "smoking kills". Despite the warnings, a new report out today projects the number of new cases of lung cancer in women in Australia will skyrocket.
The federally funded study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, predicts a 40 per cent rise in the number of cases in the decade to 2011.
Ian McDermid is the report's author:
IAN MCDERMID: Lung cancer is basically a good news story for men, essentially because male, the male smoking prevalence rates have been declining. This has not been the case for women. Women's smoking prevalence reached a peak in about the mid 1970s at about a third of the population, and it's been declining since, but because of the lag between sort of smoking behaviour and lung cancer, we have yet to see the start of the decline in female lung cancer rates.
What's really worrying though, is that on theâ€¦ in current smoking patterns, we're seeing smoking has been particularly resilient among particularly teenage girls.
EMMA JOLLIFF: Chief Executive of the Cancer Council, Professor Alan Coates, agrees with the general finding that lung cancer in women in on the rise, although says projections need to be read with caution given lung cancer can take years to develop.
ALAN COATES: It's touch and go between lung cancer and breast cancer. The lung cancer is still increasing, the breast cancers death rate is falling, and there are projections that they're going to cross. They have already crossed in many other countries, but at the moment we're saying that there are more deaths being reported still from breast cancer.
EMMA JOLLIFF: Professor Jim Bishop works for the Cancer Institute attached to the New South Wales Department of Health. He says that despite years of negative media about the risks of smoking, young women are taking up the habit at a faster rate more than any other group.
JIM BISHOP: We've got smoking trends, or a percentage smoking uptake in younger women, and it's still much higher than in older people and older men and women and also in younger men, so that we anticipate that unless this particular group can reduce their tobacco consumption, lung cancer will remain a problem, particularly in women.
EMMA JOLLIFF: Professor Coates says smoking rates are falling among both men and women, and recent figures are the lowest overall they've ever seen, but he says marketing has a lot to do with why women are way behind men in kicking the habit.
ALAN COATES: I think there was some very carefully crafted advertising by the tobacco industry, portraying smoking as an emancipated thing to do, and that unfortunately was effective. It hasn't helped that they are still getting away with calling things light and mild and persuading people that these are in some way safe. We know they're not safe, we regret the fact that they're being allowed to get away with continuing to use those terms for another year. Bit hard for us in the health industry to understand why we're going out of our way to be kind to the manufacturers of products that kill half of their regular customers.
ELEANOR HALL: The Cancer Council's Professor Alan Coates, speaking to Emma Jolliff.