Smoking a growing cause of female cancer death


frazzled young woman smoking in dingy room

Smoking is responsible for an increasing proportion of cancer deaths in NSW women and lung cancer has now overtaken breast cancer as the largest cause of female cancer death, new figures published in the journal Public Health Research & Practice show.

Researchers from the Cancer Institute NSW and the World Lung Foundation analysed NSW Central Cancer Registry data between 1972 and 2008 to provide the most up-to-date figures now available on cancer deaths in NSW.

They found that overall cancer deaths have dropped by 26% in men since 1989, with nearly half that drop due to a lower number of smoking-attributable cancer deaths.

But in women, even though overall deaths from cancer dropped by 19%, the rate of smoking-attributable cancer deaths increased and one in every five deaths from cancer in women is now caused by smoking.

“Smoking-attributable cancer mortality in women has been increasing since the 1970s, with the increase slowing since the late 1980s,” says Cancer Institute NSW epidemiologist and paper author Nicola Creighton.

“Despite declining overall mortality from cancer in NSW, more than 3300 cancer deaths in 2008 were due to the accumulated hazard of smoking in current and ex-smokers.

“This highlights the continued importance of making sure tobacco control remains part of any plans to comprehensively tackle cancer.

“Information on the number of cancer deaths caused by smoking in NSW is lacking and this study will provide data to inform cancer prevention and health policy in NSW.”

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