Lung cancer rate rising among women smokers

Mar 4, 2013

Women have caught up with men in a lethal health problem: lung cancer.

Mary Reid, who studies lung cancer as an associate professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the director of collaborative medicine in the Department of Medicine, has studied the problem since 1996 and watched the lung cancer numbers for women rise as more and more women smoke.

Fortunately, the researcher says Roswell Park and other centers have increasing ways to find the cancer and new surgical and chemotherapy tools to deal with it. The cure rate has risen from very low to not as low.

"There are fewer women overall who smoke than men, but men have really started to quit more rapidly than women. Women have sort of plateaued. So, in terms of mortality, women have shown the ability to get and die of lung cancer equally as well as men have when they've smoked as many cigarettes," Reid says.

Reid says the new screening techniques mean the disease can be caught far earlier than the usual diagnosis in a very late stage.

Traditionally, that disease has been seen as a death sentence because it's diagnosed late, but Reid says that's less true than before.

"Just in the last 10 or 15 years, we have many more drug options, we have more surgical techniques that can remove tumors with less invasion, we have chemotherapy and radiation therapy that is much more effective," Reid told WBFO.

She says women appear to be more susceptible to second-hand smoke than men.