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Women’s Lung Cancer Rates Have Steadily Risen in More Than 40 Countries

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Feb 19, 2020

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Image Credit: Alamy

Women’s lung cancer rates are rising to meet those of men, according to a systematic analysis covering more than 40 countries across five continents. The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, observed a steady rate of decline in lung cancer overall but found lung cancer in women was declining at a much slower pace as compared to men. However, women’s smoking rates rarely exceeded those of men.

There are potential genetic answers for why women’s lung cancer rates are increasing, regardless of the smoking — previous research states that women with lung cancer have impaired DNA repair mechanisms in comparison to men, and a greater genetic susceptibility. However, researchers believe that another reason for this increase could be related to a general uptick in women’s smoking habits, and the type of cigarettes they were smoking — as compared to how much more or less often women smoke than men.

This uptick in women’s lung cancer rates as compared to men’s was due to an increased rate of adenocarcinoma, which is a type of cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands anywhere within the body. Adenocarcinomas are also one of the most common forms of cancers that develop in the lungs. However, of the four types of lung cancers —


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According to the study, there are higher rates of adenocarcinoma in individuals who smoke a specific kind of cigarette — filtered cigarettes, which were invented to reduce the intake of harmful compounds while smoking. Further research has now proven that filtered cigarettes have the same health risks as their unfiltered counterparts, while at the same time encouraging individuals who smoke these cigarettes to take heavier drags and smoke more often. With respect to lung cancer, “Filtered cigarettes increase risks of adenocarcinomas due to a more peripheral distribution of tobacco smoke in the lung, and particularly affected rates in women because they began smoking later when these types of cigarettes were most common,” stated the study.

In the 1960s, filtered cigarettes were marketed as more ‘light’ or ‘mild’ forms of smoking, geared towards women, around the same time as when the stigma around women smoking started to dissipate. Thus, women smoked more cigarettes and the likelihood of them developing adenocarcinoma increased, and so, this became one of many reasons why women’s lung cancer rates slowly began converging with men’s lung cancer rates.

In any case, whether man or woman, it’s time to stub that cigarette butt and never look back.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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