More and more women dying of lung cancer

12/07/2004 10:00

The share of women dying of lung cancer is on the increase, whereas the share of male lung cancer deaths has been falling since the mid-1980s. Smoking became widespread among women much later which caused the trend to be reversed.

Lung cancer mortality per 100 thousand inhabitants by sex

Lung cancer mortality per 100 thousand inhabitants by sex

Fewer men, more women

In 2003 the share of men dying of lung cancer was 40 percent below the level of two decades ago. After a rise in the 1970s, the number of male lung cancer deaths stabilised. Male lung cancer mortality has fallen since 1986. In 2003 79 out of every 100 thousand men died of lung cancer.

The share of women dying of lung cancer is substantially lower. Since 1970, however, the mortality rate for women has increased fivefold. In 1970 7 out of every 100 thousand women died of lung cancer, the corresponding figure for 2003 was 33.

Lung cancer mortality per 100 thousand inhabitants by age and sex, 2003

Lung cancer mortality per 100 thousand inhabitants by age and sex, 2003

Women die younger than men

In 2003 the average age of men dying of lung cancer was 70.5 years, whereas women dying of lung cancer were on average 4 years younger.

For both men and women lung cancer mortality increases with age. Three-quarters of men dying of lung cancer in 2003 were over 65; of all women dying of lung cancer 58 percent were 65 or older. More women than men were under 50 when they died of lung cancer.

Share of smokers aged fifteen years or older

Share of smokers aged fifteen years or older

Smoking behaviour

The decrease in the lung cancer mortality rate for men and the rise for women are the result of the smoking behaviour of both groups.

Since the late 1950s the share of smoking men has fallen dramatically: from 90 percent to 33 percent in 2003. The share of smoking women, on the other hand, rose in the 1950s and 1960s. Since 1970 the share of smoking women has gradually fallen to 27 percent in 2003.

A packet of cigarettes a day

Smokers have an increased risk of dying from lung cancer. Smoking history and the daily number of cigarettes play an important part in this respect.

Although fewer people smoke, tobacco consumption per smoker has risen. In 1970 a smoker averaged 14 cigarettes a day, in 2003 the daily average was 21cigarettes.

Jan Hoogenboezem