Lung cancer rates up among UK women, down in US, still too high everywhere
Before anything else is said, it should be noted that lung cancer kills more people each year than the next four largest cancer killers combined. With this fact established, there is good and bad news on the lung cancer front, not only in terms of the rates at which people are diagnosed, but also regarding that most important way to lower death rates (besides not smoking) – early lung cancer detection.
Medical News Today reports that lung cancer among women in the United Kingdom is still rising. On the other hand, HealthDay, an online publication of U.S. News, points out that lung cancer rates among women in the United States are declining, and rates among men continue a retreat that has been going on for some years now.
According to the Medical News Today story, between 1975 and 2009, cases of lung cancer among women in the UK exploded from fewer than 8,000 to more than 18,000. Meanwhile, lung cancer cases among men in the UK have been dropping significantly. In 1975, there were 110 cases per 100,000 men. By 2009, the rate had shrunk to 58.8 per 100,000. Still, more than 23,000 men were diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK in 2009.
HealthDay reports that, between 2006 and 2008, cases of lung cancer among women fell 2.2 percent per year on average. The decline followed an average rise of 0.5 percent from 1999 to 2006. Among U.S. men, a decline in the rate of lung cancer diagnosis has actually increased its pace, showing a decrease of 1.4 percent per year between 1999 and 2006 and 3 percent annually from 2006 to 2008.
With the exception of the rise in lung cancer rates among UK women, this is all good to hear. But what about those people who are diagnosed with lung cancer? What happens to them?
Sadly, it remains true that most of those diagnosed with lung cancer die because their cancer is detected too late. Early detection remains among the greatest challenges in the fight against lung cancer. And on this front, the news is also somewhat mixed.
A recent study has shown that CT scans used in screening for lung cancer can cut the death rate from the disease by 20 percent. This is important progress, but it must be remembered that about 85 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, when five-year survival rates struggle to reach 5 percent.
The good news here is that physicians now have access to an aid in the assessment of their patients’ risk of developing lung cancer that can be used with CT scans to help improve early detection: EarlyCDT®-Lung.
EarlyCDT-Lung is a simple blood test that has been shown to have the ability to measure biomarkers for lung cancer very early in the development of the disease. The test is now undergoing a large trial in Scotland where researchers believe it has the potential to reduce both the lung cancer rate and costs related to treating the disease.
Whether the rate of lung cancer diagnosis rises or falls, early detection remains the most important weapon in the struggle to reduce the lung cancer death rate. It seems clear that more studies like the one in Scotland could be extremely helpful in this effort. In the meantime, the hope remains that the number-one cancer killer will be diagnosed, whether early or late, less and less often.