BETHESDA, Md--Between 1960 and 1990, there has been a greater than 400%
increase in deaths from lung cancer in women. "Women now account for
about 45% of all new cases of lung cancer, a proportion that was only about
20% to 25% in the 1970s," said James Jett, MD, co-director of the
Lung Cancer Program at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Jett, along with other lung cancer experts, participated in a video
conference at the National Institutes of Health. The program, supported
by a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology and satellite-transmitted
to 20 viewing sites nationwide, focused on the need for smoking prevention
and earlier detection.
According to National Cancer Institute data, lung-cancer-related deaths
in women rose 6% in the last five years, while in men during this time
period, the death rate dropped by 6%.
"The general population does not realize how many women get lung
cancer, or how widespread this disease is among women," said Diane
Blum, MSW, executive director of Cancer Care, Inc., a conference co-sponsor.
"Younger people feel particularly invulnerable to disease, so health
care professionals need to go an extra step to educate young women to the
dangers of lung cancer."
Dr. Jett noted that many smokers being treated for lung cancer started
smoking at age 12 or 13. "Clearly, this is a tragedy," he stated,
emphasizing that education must begin very early in a child's development,
with parents and physicians working together to make the message clear:
Lung cancer is a lethal disease.
High Death Rates in Minorities
"We must stress that smokers have a 25-fold higher risk of developing
lung cancer than nonsmokers," said Edith Perez, MD, director of clinical
trials at the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. "In addition to education,
early detection, including minority groups, is paramount for more successful
American Lung Association data indicate that the lung cancer death rate
is 80.8 per 100,000 African-American males, compared with 54.0 per 100,000
Other panelists noted that approximately 80% of lung cancer cases are
not diagnosed until the disease has reached an advanced stage. The American
Cancer Society estimates that in 1997, roughly 160,000 people will die
of lung cancer, more deaths than from prostate, breast, and colorectal