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The rate of new cases of lung cancer among women has risen while the rates for men have fallen, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Cancer Australia.

Lung cancer in Australia: an overview is the first comprehensive summary of national statistics on lung cancer in Australia.

‘The report shows the number of new lung cancers increased markedly in both sexes between 1982 and 2007,’ said AIHW spokesperson Chris Sturrock.

‘But when the age structure and size of the population are taken into account, lung cancer incidence fell by 32% in men but rose by 72% in women.’

The differing directions in lung cancer incidence rates in men and women may be attributed to historical differences in smoking behaviour, with smoking rates in men decreasing since the 1960s but rates not decreasing until the 1970s for women.

‘Tobacco smoking continues to be the largest single cause of lung cancer, responsible for about 90% of lung cancers in men and 65% in women,’ said CEO of Cancer Australia, Dr Helen Zorbas.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia, accounting for 21% of all cancer deaths in men and 17% in women in 2007.

‘However, overall mortality rates varied across different groups, with rates higher in Indigenous Australians, people in remote areas and those in the lowest socioeconomic status areas,’ Dr Zorbas said.

When considering all causes of death, lung cancer ranked second for men and fourth for women.

‘While survival has improved over the last 26 years, it still remains very low,’ Dr Zorbas said.

The 5-year relative survival for lung cancer was 11% for men and 15% for women between 2000 and 2007, compared to 8% and 10% for men and women respectively in the 1982-1987 period.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Cancer Australia provides national leadership in cancer control to improve outcomes for those affected by cancer and their families and carers.

Canberra, 4 November 2011

Media contacts:

Cancer Australia — Anh Dang tel. (02) 9357 9401, mob. 0438 209 833

AIHW — Ms Chris Sturrock, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1118, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Lung cancer in Australia: an overview