Younger American women more likely to get lung cancer than men

Historically, men have been more likely to develop lung cancer than women in the United States, but new research indi...

Posted: May 24, 2018 8:07 PM
Updated: May 24, 2018 8:07 PM

Historically, men have been more likely to develop lung cancer than women in the United States, but new research indicates that this sex-based trend has flipped, with the greatest shift occurring among whites and some Hispanics born after the mid-1960s. Overall, younger women are now more likely to get lung cancer than men of the same age, the study authors say.

The new study, a collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, offers a mix of both positive and negative results. The research appeared Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Lung cancer incidence has generally decreased for people ages 30 to 54

Among whites, lung cancer rates for women surpassed those of men in nearly every age group studied

"Over the past two decades, the age-specific incidence of lung cancer has generally decreased among both men and women 30 to 54 years of age in all races and ethnic groups," the authors note. That decline, though, has been steeper for men than women, they say.

Smoking behavior trends

Among both men and women, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US, according to the American Cancer Society. About 80% of the total 154,000 deaths from lung cancer each year is due to smoking cigarettes.

Generally, it's been thought that fewer women than men are smokers and that female smokers tend to start at older ages and smoke fewer cigarettes than men. Yet recent studies suggest that, increasingly, women are smoking in similar ways to men.

For the new study, the researchers examined the most recent lung cancer data for 1995 through 2014 as they relate to sex, race or ethnic group, age, year of diagnosis and year of birth.

Since the mid-1960s, male-dominated incidence rates for lung cancer no longer hold true, the study shows. Lung cancer incidence rates for all age groups of women and men converged among blacks and Asians/Pacific Islanders and crossed to female predominance among Hispanics ages 40 to 49, according to the study authors.

Among whites, incidence rates for women surpassed those of men in nearly every age group: ages 30 to 34, 35 to 39, 40 to 44, and 45 to 49, the researchers say. In particular, for whites between the ages of 40 and 44, female-to-male incidence went from 12% lower in the 1995-99 period to 17% higher in the 2010-14 period.

Smoking patterns do not fully explain this change, so more research is needed, the authors say. "The prevalence of smoking among white women born after the 1970s and among Hispanics born after the 1960s approached, but did not exceed, that among their male counterparts," they wrote. "Moreover, the average number of cigarettes smoked per day continues to be considerably lower among women than among men."

It is possible that differences in the types of lung cancer affecting men and women contributed to the trend, the researchers speculate. For example, adenocarcinoma is a type of lung cancer that is more common among women -- yet the risk of this lung cancer subtype decreases more slowly than other subtypes when people stop smoking.

Another possible explanation is that women may be more susceptible to the negative effects of smoking than men although this theory has not been proved conclusively, the study authors write. Ultimately, though, they conclude, "future studies are needed to identify reasons for the higher incidence of lung cancer among young women."

'Generally getting better'

Gary Giovino, a professor and chairman of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at the University at Buffalo, said the new study is "very thorough."

"It is a little scary," said Giovino, who was not involved in the study but has researched lung cancer rates. "My mother died of lung cancer, so this stuff resonates with me. Things are generally getting better, which is, of course, a positive thing."

Though the researchers considered most of the possible explanations for the new results, they "obviously ran out of gas," he said.

"They didn't look at age of initiation, probably because the data aren't available every year. That would be one thing I might add to their analysis," he said. Has the age of smoking initiation come down more rapidly for women than for men? If so, this might explain the new results, he suggested.

"The second thing is, they dismissed menthol as a possible explanation, when women and young people are more likely to smoke menthol," Giovino said. There's some evidence with African-Americans who smoke fewer cigarettes per day yet have higher lung cancer rates than other groups, he said. "I'm not ready to give up on the menthol hypothesis quite yet."

Giovino also noted education and socioeconomic differences, since some research has shown an increase in smoking rates among less-educated women since the Virginia Slims cigarette ads of the mid-1970s.

Finally, he said, the study authors say women have lower rates of quitting smoking than men, but they fail to factor in the possibility that men who quit cigarettes are more likely to switch to or continue using cigars or pipes.

Despite these small criticisms, the study is "clearly well done," Giovino said. "If this brings more attention to tobacco use prevention and control, that's a good thing."

West Lafayette
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 81°
Kokomo
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 76°
Rensselaer
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 75°
Fowler
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 75°
Williamsport
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 79°
Crawfordsville
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 74°
Frankfort
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 73°
Delphi
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 79°
Monticello
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 79°
Logansport
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 75°
Hotter & turning much more humid for the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events