Lung cancer rates have surged in women after tobacco manufacturers encouraged them to smoke to stay slim, experts warn.
The number of cases is increasing far more quickly compared to men and is likely to overtake them within the next decade.
Researchers from Kings College, London, predict that within the next 30 years the number of women with lung cancer will more than treble, up from 26,000 to 95,000 in 2040.
Killer: Lung cancer rates among women have soared as tobacco firms sell cigarettes as a way of staying slim. (Posed by model)
By comparison the numbers of men with the deadly illness will only rise by 8 per cent, from 39,000 to 42,000. The surge means that by 2040 there will be more than twice as many women with lung cancer than men.
Lung cancer is the third most common form of the illness in women after breast and bowel, but it is also one of the deadliest.
Fewer than 10 per cent of patients can expect to live beyond five years largely because the illness is usually diagnosed so late.
It is also the biggest cause of death in Britain claiming 35,000 lives annually, more than heart disease or any other type of cancer.
But researchers say that while rates in men are beginning to stabilise, they are still increasing very quickly in women.
This is because lung cancer rates tend to reflect people’s smoking habits of 30 to 40 years ago.
Dangers: The number of women with lung cancer in 2040 is expected to far outstrip the number of men with the disease. (Posed by model)
And women did not begin smoking en masse until the 1960s and 1970s, targeted by adverts promoting glamour and aspiration.
Amanda Sandford, of Action on Smoking and Health said that many manufacturers used images of thin, beautiful, models smoking equally slim cigarettes.
She added: ‘Smoking was associated with being slim and attractive. Even some of the brands used the name slim such as Virginia Slim, an American brand.’
She said that although tobacco advertising had since been banned, manufacturers still promoted smoking with being thin by the use of ‘slim’, more feminine cigarettes.
‘Women were slower to take up smoking therefore they are slower to get the consquences, lung cancer. It’s a delayed reaction.’
The researchers, whose study is published in the British Journal of Cancer, predict there will be 137,000 people with lung cancer by 2040.
This increase is due to a combination of the delayed effects of smoking and the aging population - lung cancer is more common in the over 50s.
They calculate that by around 2020, there will be more women than men with lung cancer.
But campaigners warn that not enough funding is being put towards better diagnosis methods and treatment.
It receives a quarter of the amount dedicated to breast cancer even though it claims more than three times as many lives.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Lung cancer is often overlooked among cancers but these figures should serve as a firm reminder that it is still very much a cancer killer
‘For most cancers in the UK we are looking at how we can cope with a population of long-term survivors with health complications. With lung cancer we are a long way from even being able to consider these issues.
‘Lung cancer survival needs to improve. Prevention is important but so too is research into the disease and its treatment. It is nonsensical that research in this area receives such minimal funding compared with other cancers. This has to change.’
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