Lung cancer overtakes breast cancer as biggest killer of women

More women are dying from lung cancer, experts have warned Credit: ITV Wales

Lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK, according to new research.

Some 15,449 women died from lung cancer in 2010, compared to 11,556 from breast cancer the same year, according to statistics from Cancer Research UK.

Around 41,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year (23,000 men and 18,000 women).

Death toll is more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and leukaemia combined.

Smoking causes more than 8 out of 10 cases of lung cancer Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

In most people, lung cancer is related to cigarette smoking. Although some people who have never smoked get lung cancer, smoking causes more than 8 out of 10 cases (83%).

  • The more you smoke, the more likely you are to get lung cancer but it is the length of time you have been a smoker that is most important.

  • Starting smoking at a young age greatly increases the risk.

  • Filtered and low tar cigarettes might not increase your risk quite so much, but most smokers cancel this out by taking more, deeper puffs or smoking more cigarettes.

  • As soon as you stop smoking, your risk of lung cancer starts to go down.

  • Passive smoking (breathing in other people's cigarette smoke) increases the risk of lung cancer, but it is still much less than if you smoke yourself.

After lung and breast cancer, the biggest killers of women in the UK are cancers of the bowel, ovary and pancreas.

These accounted for 7,308, 4,295 and 4,029 female deaths in 2010 respectively.

Daybreak's Tiffany Royce reports.

What to look out for

The symptoms of lung cancer may include;

  • Having a cough most of the time

  • A change in a cough you have had for a long time

  • Being short of breath

  • Coughing up phlegm (sputum) with signs of blood in it

  • An ache or pain when breathing or coughing

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fatigue

  • Losing weight

  • Having a chest infection that doesn't go away with treatment

Other less common symptoms of lung cancer are usually associated with more advanced lung cancer. They include;

  • A hoarse voice

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Changes in the shape of your fingers and nails called finger clubbing

  • Swelling of the face caused by a blockage of a main blood vessel (superior vena cava obstruction)

  • Swelling in the neck caused by enlarged lymph nodes

  • A constant ache or pain in your chest or shoulder that has lasted some time

  • Pain or discomfort under your ribs on your right side (from cancer cells in the liver)

  • Shortness of breath caused by fluid around the lungs (called pleural effusion)

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