More women die of lung cancer

31/05/2007 15:00

Last year, 9.4 thousand Dutch residents died from lung cancer, i.e. 7 percent of total annual mortality. The number of female lung cancer deaths has increased more than fivefold since 1970.

Increase among women, decrease among men

The share of women dying from lung cancer continues to rise, whereas the share of male lung cancer deaths has fallen over the past two decades. The obvious explanation is the large-scale increase in female smokers, although women started smoking much later than men. Because lung cancer has a long incubation period, changes in smoking behaviour can only be recognised in lung cancer mortality rates after many years.

Yet, the lung cancer mortality rate for men is twice as high as for women.

Lung cancer mortality

Lung cancer mortality

Female lung cancer patients die at younger age

The average age for men to die from lung cancer was 70.6 years in 2006. Their female counterparts were on average 3.3 years younger. Under-30s rarely die from lung cancer. For one in seven men who died between the ages of 60 and 70 and for one in seven women who died between the ages of 50 and 60, lung cancer is the primary cause of death. Typically, under the age of 60, the lung cancer mortality rate for women is higher than for men.

Share of lung cancer mortality in total mortality, 2006

Share of lung cancer mortality in total mortality, 2006

Giving up smoking

The decrease in male lung cancer deaths and the increase in female lung cancer deaths is mainly the result of the smoking behaviour in the two gender groups. Since the late 1950s, the percentage of male smokers has decreased dramatically from 90 to 34 percent, whereas, the percentage of female smokers has increased in the 1950s and 1960s, but has gradually fallen since 1970 to 25 percent in 2006.

Jan Hoogenboezem and Kim de Bruin