Latest Victorian lung cancer figures released

Monday 20 May, 2002

The latest figures on lung cancer deaths in Victoria show that the number of deaths in men has continued to decline. However, the news is not so positive for women; the number of deaths in women has risen, and is expected to continue to rise for some years.

Figures released by The Cancer Council Victoria today show:

  • Lung cancer claimed the lives of 1,093 Victorian men and 599 Victorian women in 2000
  • In total 1,692 Victorians died of lung cancer in 2000. The number of deaths increased slightly from the previous year, as a result of a rise in lung cancer deaths in women.
  • Around 4 Victorians die every day as a result of lung cancer.
  • 90% of cases in men, and 65% of cases in women are due to smoking.

Speaking at the release of the latest figures today, Director of the Cancer Council's Cancer Epidemiology Centre, Professor Graham Giles, said lung cancer continues to be a major public health problem, causing the deaths of more than 4 Victorians every day.

""These latest figures reinforce the trends we have seen for some years, where lung cancer rates for men have continued to fall. This is not the case for women, where the number of new lung cancer cases and deaths from lung cancer has consistently risen in recent years,"" Professor Giles said.

""In Victoria, the lung cancer rate in men has declined by just over 2% annually since 1982. However, the rate in women has risen by 1.6% each year over the same period.""

Professor Giles said that lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in men, and the second leading cause of all cancer deaths in women.

""Currently, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. But if the trends we are currently seeing in Victoria continue, we would expect that lung cancer will overtake breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the next decade.""

Dr Giles says despite the rising number of deaths in women, closer analysis of the figures has shown the rise in lung cancer deaths in women is occurring in older women over 65.

""The latest figures have revealed that the number of deaths in women under 65 is actually falling slightly, which is a trend we would hope will continue.""

Dr Giles warned that lung cancer does not only affect older people.

""There are people in their 50's and even 40’s who are diagnosed with lung cancer, although most cases are detected in men and women between the ages of 65-79.""

Professor Giles said the current trends in lung cancer cases and deaths is linked to past levels of smoking.

""Smoking rates among men peaked in the mid 1940s, and have continued to decline since then. Therefore, we would expect to see both the number of cases and lung cancer deaths in men continuing to fall for decades.""

""Unfortunately, the story for women is different. Women’s smoking rates peaked in the late 1970’s, and while they have fallen since then, the falls have not been as marked as those seen in male smoking rates.""

""Generally speaking, there is about a 40 year time lag between the onset of smoking and the development of lung cancer. Therefore, I would not expect to see falls in either the number of new lung cancer cases and deaths from lung cancer in women for some time yet.""

Associate Professor David Ball, a cancer specialist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, said every day he sees the impact of lung cancer on patients and their families.

""The tragic part of these statistics is that nearly all these lung cancer deaths could be prevented.""

""Almost all cases of lung cancer are due to smoking. If smoking rates reduce, so too would the incidence of lung cancer, and the range of other illnesses that are caused by smoking – such as heart disease and other types of cancer.""

""Sadly, lung cancer continues to have one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers. This is because many patients present with advanced stages of this deadly disease and may have other health problems related to tobacco smoking. Therefore their prognosis for a complete recovery is very poor.""

ends

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact Leigh Raymond, Media Manager, The Cancer Council Victoria on 9635 5191 or Anne Rahilly, Public Relations Manager, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, ph 0417 123 048