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The BBC's Health correspondent Richard Hannaford
"Campaigners... want more awareness of the problem"
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The Cancer Research Campaign's Professor McVie
"The is a triumph for tobacco companies"
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Dr Nabil Jarad, Consultant respiratory physician
"Propaganda against smoking is effective, but not effective enough"
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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Lung cancer 'biggest killer' of women
Breast cancer screening
Smoking is blamed for the rise in lung cancer
Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the biggest killer of women in Britain.

New figures from the Cancer Research Campaign show there has been a 5% fall in deaths from breast cancer over the past 20 years, but a 36% increase in deaths from lung cancer.

The rise is being blamed on an increase in the number of women smoking.

Lung cancer is now killing more women and that is an absolute disaster

Professor Gordon McVie
And campaigners are warning that with the number of young girls taking up smoking increasing, the figures are likely to get worse.

Statistics showed that 12,765 women died of lung cancer in 1999 in England, Scotland and Wales, compared with 12,677 from breast cancer.

In 1979 more than 13,235 women died from breast cancer and 8,916 died from lung cancer.

Director General of the Cancer Research Campaign, Professor Gordon McVie, said the rise in lung cancer was a disaster, but was a "triumph for the tobacco companies for marketing and targeting their advertisement campaigns at young girls".


"Lung cancer could almost be an invisible disease for all the public attention paid to it. Cigarettes are potentially death in a packet," he said.

"More young girls than boys are taking up the habit and older women are not as successful as men in packing it in once they are hooked.

"British women are much more breast aware these days, and they rightly demand best practice.

"But breast cancer is still the disease women fear the most."

The decline in the number of women dying of breast cancer is seen as a measure of success of the breast screening programme and improvements in diagnosis and treatment.

Recruitment drive

But that achievement has been eclipsed by the increase in lung cancer deaths.

According to the Cancer Research Campaign, nine out of 10 cases of lung cancer in women are due to smoking.

Although historically women did not take up cigarettes in the same numbers as men did, that seems to be changing with nearly 30% of women in the UK regular smokers.

Campaigners are particularly worried about a rise in the number of young women taking up smoking.

The government has recognised the need to recruit more staff at all levels to tackle cancer.

It is also preparing to publish a national plan laying down standards and targets for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

It has already laid down a target of reducing cancer deaths by 20% by the end of the decade.

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