Lung cancer has become the number two cause of cancer deaths in women, second only to breast cancer, and by 1983 will pass breast cancer to become the leader, according to the American Cancer Society.
This is happening at the same time that a woman's chance of developing breast cancer also has increased.
The reason for the sharp increase in lung cancer in women is the sharp rise, going back to the 1940s and 1950s, in women's cigarette smoking. More women smokers are now reaching middle or later life, when lung cancer strikes.
Lung cancer deaths in women passed cancer of the colon (large intestine) and rectum in 1977, but the statistics have just been compiled and reported by the society. The projection to 1983 was made by U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond and will be announced by Deputy Surgeon General John Greene here today.
In 1930 the annual lung cancer death rate in women was only 1.5 per 100,000 while there were 21.4 deaths from breast cancer.
In 1977 there were 14.9 lung cancer deaths per 100,000 women, while the death rate for colon and rectal cancer was 14.3.
The breast cancer death rate has remained virtually the same over the years -- sometimes rising a little, sometimes falling a little, then rising again despite advances in treatment.
A newborn baby girl in the United States now has one chance in 11 of having breast cancer during her life, compared to the previously accepted lower risk of one in 13. No one knows why. Among leading suspected causes are increased fat and protein in the diet and increased exposure of women to industrial and environmental chemicals.