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Saturday, September 11, 1999 Published at 05:48 GMT 06:48 UK


Health

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.

European Cancer Conference
According to Professor Gordon McVie of the Cancer Research Campaign, British women are five times more likely to die from the condition than Spanish women.

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.


The BBC's Karen Allen: "British women are more likely to die of lung cancer than women in Spain"
Only Danish women are more likely to die of the disease.

UK women are more prone to develop lung cancer because they started smoking longer ago, in the 1940s and 1950s.


[ image: More girls in the UK are taking up smoking]
More girls in the UK are taking up smoking
Professor McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "The epidemic of lung cancer deaths has already hit the UK, but I am frightened that the number of women dying from the disease elsewhere in Europe has yet to peak."

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


Professor Gordon McVie: "Smoking is increasing among young British women because they're targeted by advertisers"
However charity's researchers found that smoking rates among women of all ages in the UK were going down - dropping from 41% in 1974 to 28% in 1996.

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.





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