Women's lung cancer rates up by 22%
Lung cancer rates for British women have risen more than a fifth in the last two decades with a record 20,000-plus cases now being diagnosed each year, new figures have shown.
The soaring number of victims is a legacy of the 1970s, when women in the UK were most likely to smoke.
Despite the declining popularity of smoking today, the fall out from damage inflicted at that time is still being felt, experts believe. Men's peak period for smoking was in the 1940s, when relatively few women embraced the habit.
Each year almost 20,000 men and 16,000 women in the UK die from lung cancer, making it the country's most lethal form of the disease in terms of overall mortality.
Professor Caroline Dive, from the UK Manchester Institute run by Cancer Research UK which issued the statistics, said: "It really is devastating to see that the number of women diagnosed with lung cancer continues to climb. We also know survival remains poor and one of the problems is that lung cancer tends to be diagnosed at a late stage when it has already spread. Cancer is very difficult to treat once it has spread around the body."
The charity has doubled its research spending on lung cancer in the past year. One key project involves a high-tech new test that can track progress of the disease once it has spread.
Prof Dive, a leading member of the research team, added: " It is very challenging to biopsy lung cancer and very hard for the patient too. The new technique we're testing uses magnets to capture rogue cancer cells in patients' blood and could be a more effective form of biopsy, providing vital information on the biology of the disease. And, ultimately, this could lead to better ways to treat patients."
The magnet test is being shown to the public at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition taking place in London.
Nell Barrie, senior science communication manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's vital that we keep on fighting against lung cancer. It's the biggest cancer killer in the UK so the Government and the health service must work to help smokers quit by providing more stop smoking services to help people give up this deadly addiction. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is stop.
"It's also essential to invest in new techniques to improve treatment for patients. This new form of biopsy is unique because samples are taken throughout a patient's treatment allowing researchers to understand how drug resistance develops and how tumours evolve over time."
Female lung cancer incidence rose from 53 per 100,000 women in the UK between 1993 and 1995 to 65 per 100,000 between 2010 and 2012 , an increase of 22%.
In 2012 a total of 20,483 women were diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK compared with 14,176 in 1993.
Despite falling lung cancer rates among men, around 24,000 male cases of the disease are still diagnosed each year in the UK.