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Women's Lung Cancer Facts

  Lung cancer, not breast cancer, is the leading cancer killer of women. Since 1987, lung cancer has caused more deaths each year than breast cancer. In five years, twice as many women will die from lung cancer than breast cancer (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, 2002).
  Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, killing more people than breast, prostate, ovarian and colorectal cancers combined. In 2002, there will be 169,000 new cases and 154,900 deaths attributed to lung cancer (American Cancer Society Cancer Facts & Figures, 2002).
  Every 3 minutes another person is diagnosed with lung cancer and each hour it kills 18 people (American Cancer Society Cancer Facts & Figures, 2002).
  This year lung cancer will kill about 27,000 more women than breast cancer (The National Women’s Health Information Center, The Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services).
  85% of patients who develop lung cancer die from it (American Cancer Society).
  Occurrence of lung cancer in women is increasing at a dramatic rate compared to men, which has leveled off. This is due to the increase in smoking by women during the last 40 years. Between 1974 and 1994, lung cancer deaths increased 150% in women while men experienced only a 20% increase (American Lung Association, September, 2000).
  There is a growing body of evidence that women and men run different risks of developing lung cancer and may exhibit different responses to treatment. Research suggests that while women may smoke fewer cigarettes and inhale less of the cigarettes they smoke, women are 1.5 times more likely to get lung cancer than men (American Lung Association, September, 2000).
  There appears to be a genetic predisposition for lung cancer in women due to two X chromosomes (men have one) (National Cancer Institute.)
  In a recent test at the University of Pittsburgh, 55% of non-smoking women have shown the presence of gastrin-releasing peptide receptor (GRPR), a genetic element known to play a role in the promotion of lung cancer. None of the men tested had the marker. 5 of the 6 nonsmoking women with the gene were subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer.

15%-20% of lung cancers in women occur in non-smokers. Non-smokers with lung cancer are 2 to 3 times more likely to be female than males, according to government estimates.

  Over 55% of lung cancers occur in former or non-smokers (American Cancer Society Facts & Figures, 2001).

Although Smoking cessation reduces the risk of lung cancer, former smokers always remain at higher risk than people who have never smoked. Second hand smoke has been found to cause lung cancer (American Cancer Society Facts & Figures, 2001).

  Non-tobacco related causes of lung cancer include exposure to radon, diesel fuel, asbestos, and other toxic chemicals (American Cancer Society Facts & Figures, 2001).
  In 2001, The National Cancer Institute estimates that it spent only $1,311 per lung cancer death compared to $11,704 per breast cancer death, $8,190 per prostate cancer death, and $3,625 per colorectal cancer death.
  Spending on lung research and treatment of lung cancer is very low primarily due to the smoking connection. Some people believe that since most lung cancers occur in people who smoke, that they asked for the problem. They blame the victim. This is clearly a misguided notion given the facts above. No one should have to suffer from this devastating disease.
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