Historically, the incidence of lung cancer has been higher among men. However, this pattern has reversed since the mid-1960’s particularly in non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics. These findings are not fully explained by sex differences in smoking patterns between men and women. One of the most concerning aspects of this pattern is that the increased incidence of lung cancer in women is in young women.
Over the last two decades the incidence of lung cancer has generally decreased for both men and women 30 to 54 years of age in all races. However, the rate of decline has been more pronounced for men. The crossover between the rates for men and women occurred in about 1965. Interestingly, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among women born since 1965 is close to the smoking rates for men.
Lung cancer still causes more preventable deaths than any other cancer in the United States, and cigarette smoking is an associated cause for 80% of the 154,000 lung cancer deaths that occur each year. Two studies have recently shown higher rates of cancer in young women than in young men. Does the increase in smoking in women account totally for the increase in young female lung cancer? Studies show that the increased incidence of smoking in young women does not fully explain the increased amount of lung cancer seen in this group.
More studies will be needed to see if women are more susceptible to this deadly cancer.