Women pay the price for smoking
FEWER South Australian women are dying from cancer compared with 10 years ago but lung cancer is the exception.
Latest Department of Health figures show the mortality rate for lung cancer in women has steadily increased in the past decade, from 15.3 deaths per 100,000 in 1993 to 21.4 in 2002. That is a contrast to other types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian, where the mortality rate has decreased considerably since 1993.
"Lung cancer continues to be the biggest cancer killer in South Australia," Quit SA manager Dr Andrew Ellerman said.
"Most women worry more about breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer than lung cancer. Lung cancer is a women's issue too."
Dr Ellerman said lung cancer mortality rates for men had decreased "as smoking rates continue to decline".
"For women, the rates of lung cancer show no signs of decline," he said.
He said increased marketing by tobacco companies, particularly through movies, had made smoking more appealing to women.
Mortality rates for kidney and uterus cancer in women were also slightly higher than 10 years ago.
The mortality rate for lung cancer, however, increased by almost 40 per cent in that time.
In men, the largest increases in cancer mortality rates in the past decade were found in Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma, melanomas and kidney cancer. All other types of cancer in men recorded a fall in mortality rates.
Department of Health epidemiology branch director Dr Paul Jelfs said smoking was clearly the most influential risk factor for women.
"Smoking rates in women have gone up in the past 20 years and particularly in young women in the past 10 years," he said. "The changes in smoking patterns 20 years ago are now coming through in the system."
He said survival rates for lung cancer were "relatively poor" at 12 to 15 per cent at five years, when compared to melanomas (90 to 95 per cent) and breast cancer (about 75 per cent).
"Screening and early detection influences mortality but this is not so applicable to lung cancer," he said.
"Disease management also affects mortality but the breakthroughs that have come in lung cancer have not been as potentially important as other diseases. In breast and cervical cancer, and leukemia, there have been massive changes in the way things are treated."
Cancer Council of SA chief executive, Associate Professor Brenda Wilson, said about 26 per cent of deaths in the state were because of cancer.
"Cancer is becoming a larger public health problem," she said.