The number of deaths from lung cancer in the United States in 2023 is 127,070. According to the American Cancer Society, this includes 67,160 deaths in men and 59,910 in women. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, accounting for about 25% of all cancer deaths.
A recent report published in JAMA Oncology reveals a surprising trend in lung cancer cases among individuals aged 35 to 54. The data shows that younger women are diagnosed with lung cancer at slightly higher rates than males. Research says one or two additional cases for every 100,000 women compared to men. Even though it looks small, it has raised concerns among researchers at the American Cancer Society. They believe this gender disparity warrants further investigation.
Leading Cause of Cancer-Related Deaths
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women in the United States, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Nationally, around 197,000 people receive a lung cancer diagnosis yearly, with 136,000 succumbing to the disease.
The study’s findings indicate that this gender gap in lung cancer persists not only among those under 50 but also extends into middle-aged adults as younger women with higher risk factors for lung cancer grow older.
Researchers can’t find why Women?
Researchers are actively working to understand the reasons behind this gender disparity and to determine the best strategies for helping affected patients. However, as of now, there is no clear and direct answer to this puzzle.
Dr. Narjust Florez, a thoracic medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, challenges the common perception that lung cancer primarily afflicts older men with a long history of smoking. She emphasizes that many women in the United States are daily victims of lung cancer. Dr. Florez also raises concerns about potential gender bias in the medical field. It could affect testing, as women are less likely to be offered lung cancer screenings.
Not Explained by Smoking Habits
The prevalence and intensity of smoking do not appear to be significantly higher in younger women than in men. This holds true even when considering a slightly higher prevalence among women born in the 1960s. Additionally, the study found no significant differences in the carcinogenic effects of cigarette smoking between men and women. Overdiagnosis seems unlikely because it affects both early- and late-stage tumors. And occupational exposures such as asbestos have significantly decreased in recent decades.
Ongoing Research and Recommendations
The study authors conclude that further research is essential to uncover the reasons behind the higher incidence of lung cancer in younger women. In the meantime, efforts to encourage cigarette smoking cessation among younger and middle-aged women should be intensified. And lung cancer screening should be promoted for eligible women by healthcare professionals and the broader community.