Female life expectancy at birth is almost 81 years; five years higher than for men. Since 1970 life expectancy for men rose by more than 5 years, women’s life expectancy by more than 4 years.
Smoking among men decreased during the last decades, whereas smoking among women increased. As a result, lung cancer mortality has dropped among men and risen among women since 1985. The number of women dying from lung cancer is anticipated to rise, whereas the number of male deaths from lung cancer will continue to drop for some years to come but the downward trend will be reversed around 2010, as the most recent population forecast published by Statistics Netherlands shows.
Lung cancer mortality, 1995-2020
Decreased risk of lung cancer among men
The main reason for the decrease in male lung cancer deaths is found in smoking behaviour. In the past decades the percentage of smoking men has dropped considerably.
Thus the probability of contracting lung cancer below the age of 70 has been reduced significantly. This downward trend is expected to continue in the future.
The risk of lung cancer over the age of seventy, on the other hand, has risen. This affects generations who have smoked for decades. In the future the risk will also be reduced among 70-overs.
The increase in male lung cancer deaths after 2010 is caused by the ageing of the population: the number of men who have reached an age at which there exists an increased risk of lung cancer will be relatively high after 2010.
Risk of lung cancer for men, 1970, 2003 and 2020
Increased risk of lung cancer among women
Around 1970 the risk for women of dying from lung cancer was were hardly worth considering. Since then the risk has risen sharply because more women started smoking since the 1960s.
The percentage of smokers stabilised after 1990. The risk of dying from lung cancer will, however, rise further due to generations of women who have smoked for decades.
The increased risk of dying from lung cancer in the past as well as in the future will cause the number of female lung cancer deaths to rise sharply. In 2003 male deaths from lung cancer outnumbered women by over 3 thousand. In 2020 the difference will be reduced by half.
Risk of lung cancer for women, 1970, 2003 and 2020
Lung cancer has more impact on female life expectancy
In 2003 life expectancy for women was 81 years. The life expectancy for women dying from lung cancer was only 70 years. For males dying from lung cancer life expectancy was 73 years, as against 76 years for men across the board. This means that women with lung cancer die younger than men with lung cancer. The effect of smoking on life expectancy seems to be more harmful to women than to men.
Andries de Jong