Lung Cancer Death Rates Increase among White Women in Some States

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A new study comparing lung cancer death rates among women by year of birth shows dramatic differences in trends between states, likely reflecting the success or failure of tobacco control efforts. The study, published early online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology,1 finds that while lung cancer death rates declined continuously by birth year for women born after the 1950s in California, rates in other states declined less quickly or even increased. In some southern states, lung cancer death rates among women born in the 1960s were approximately double those of women born in the 1930s.

Lung Cancer Mortality Trends

Researchers led by Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, American Cancer Society Vice President of Surveillance Research, analyzed lung cancer death rates from 1973 through 2007 by age among white women for 23 states for which there was adequate data, using the NCI’s SEER mortality database.

California has consistently led the U.S. in using public policies to reduce cigarette smoking. In California, age-specific lung cancer death rates by year of birth continued to decrease in all age groups younger than age 75 starting in the 1990s, with declines beginning earlier in younger age groups. In Alabama, in contrast, rates continued to increase for those age 70 years or more, whereas rates for young and middle-aged women decreased for a short time, but are now increasing in the most recent time period, especially for women younger than age 50.

Increased Rate of Death

In California, the lung cancer death rate for women born after 1950 is less than a third of that among those born in 1933, while in Alabama the death rate in women born after the 1950s is more than double that of women born in 1933. Similar increasing rates in women born after the 1950s were found in many southern states.

“The dramatic rise in lung cancer death rates in young and middle-aged white women in several Southern states points to a lack of effective policies or interventions that deter initiation of smoking among teenagers and promote smoking cessation among adults,” Dr. Jemal said. ■


1. Jemal A, et al: Increasing lung cancer death rates among young women in southern and midwestern states. J Clin Oncol. June 25, 2012 (early release online).




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