Major research on lung cancer has determined some significant, positive trends: overall rates have dropped about 12 percent over the last thirty years according to Denise Riedel Lewis of the U.S. National Cancer Institute. Some types of lung cancer are stagnant or even increasing, however.
Smoking causes at least 90 percent of lung cancer cases, so declining usage of tobacco products directly accounts for decreasing rates overall. Scientists believe that smoking habits also contribute to increasing rates for certain cancer types.
Adenocarcinoma and “Light” Cigarettes
People who smoke “light” cigarettes may believe that lower nicotine levels offer a health benefit, but this new data points to rising lung cancer rates for these smokers.
Dr. Norman Edelman of the American Lung Association points out that carcinogens reach the outer areas of lungs more often when people deeply inhale low-nicotine cigarettes rather than taking shallower inhalations of standard cigarettes.
Rates are increasing for adenocarcinoma, or lung cancer that begins in the outer lungs. Women, who smoke “light” cigarettes at higher rates than men, have had notably high rates of adenocarcinoma in recent years.
Some Lung Cancer Rates Hitting a Plateau
According to Edelman, men’s lung cancer rates have been falling for years while women’s rates have held steady. Women starting to smoke later in life than men contributed to lower rates among women in the past, with rates now evening out between the sexes.
The NCI study looked at lung cancer cases from 1977 to 2010, covering significant changes in smoking rates as well as advances in lung cancer treatments.
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