Saturday, September 11, 1999 Published at 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK
High cancer risk for UK women
European women could face a lung cancer epidemic
A leading cancer specialist says the death rate of women smokers in the UK from lung cancer is up to five times higher than in many other European countries.
The UK death rate is also four times that of Portugal and France, and twice that of Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, Germany and Sweden.
UK women are more prone to develop lung cancer because they started smoking longer ago, in the 1940s and 1950s.
He said that smoking rates among southern European women had increased dramatically since the 1970s, when they were still predominantly housewives and mothers.
The proportion of women smoking in Spain, for example, increased from 17% in 1978 to 27% in 1995.
Girl smokers rising
But Professor McVie warned there could be a further epidemic of lung cancer in the UK.
"Although the number of women of all ages who smoke is levelling off, the number of young women and girls taking up the habit is rising. So unless something is done quickly, we may face another glut of deaths in our own country."
The professor is to highlight the issue at the Ecco 10 European cancer conference in Vienna.