Well, according to research, the number of men contracting lung cancer is on the decline, while the number of women affected is steadily increasing. Younger women are being affected and, even more disturbingly, many of them are non-smokers. SPICE contributor, Anton Pretorius, investigates.
Recent survey’s shows that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, more women will die annually from lung cancer than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. It’s a shocking statistics that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even though it’s foreign statistics and no such information is currently available in South Africa, it ought to serve as an effective eye-opener to female smokers in South Africa.
According to the National Council Against Smoking, lung cancer in South Africa has found its target market, namely, white women – who have the highest incidence of lung cancer. This is because white women tend to smoke the most, with coloured women coming in second and black women contracting the disease is five times lower of that of white and coloured women. Lung cancer comes in after cervical, breast, bowel and throat cancer as the fifth-most-prominent killer disease amongst SA women. But according to medical sources, lung cancer is set the climb up the killer’s disease rankings.
Another shocking discovery is that non-smokers are also been severely affected and are more exposed to lung cancer than ever before. While smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer (90% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking), about 10% of lung-cancer victims are non-smokers. Now here’s the shocker: Women are THREE times more at risk of contracting the disease than men. This report has puzzled doctors’ worldwide, and now many of them are trying to find out why.
An American Health Foundation study reported that, given the same level of exposure to cigarette smoke, women tend to be about 1,5 times more likely to develop lung cancer than men. Has it to do with women’s immune systems? Well, the Foundation suggests it’s because women metabolise carcinogens (cancer-causing substances found in anything from second-hand smoke to radioactive gas occurring in soil) differently than men and the poison tends to stick around longer in their systems.
Another medical theory suggests that women’s lungs tend to be smaller than men’s and carcinogens rather concentrate in smaller amounts of tissue – so women’s bodies are less capable of repairing DNA damage. Then there is the hormone theory, which suggests than cancer tumours may grow in response to oestrogen, making lung cancer as much of a worry for women as breast, uterine or ovarian cancer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re pack-a-day or just simple social smokers, contracting the disease seems inevitable for all smokers and the risk applies to all (even the non-smokers who are simply innocent by-standers in your clouds of smoke!) Attention to all female smokers - this is an official warning, I repeat, this is not a drill, Stop smoking today!
Reducing your risk:
• If you are a smoker, stop immediately! Your risk of developing lung cancer decreases each year you don’t smoke – and after 10 years it’s almost halved.
• As a non-smoker, you’re entitled to a smoke-free work environment – demand it and make sure you keep your home smoke-free, too.
• A 2002 study in a British Journal, suggested that women who took aspirin regularly decreased their chance of developing lung cancer by more than half.
• Studies suggest that certain compounds found in broccoli, cauliflower and watercress can protect against lung cancer.
Karen Robertson – Lung cancer and you, Cosmopolitan, August 2006