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North on wrong side of North-South lung cancer divide

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by Cancer Research UK | News

31 December 2002

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Lung cancer rates in the north of England and Scotland are significantly above the UK’s national average, while the figures for the south, Wales and Northern Ireland were under the national average.

The news comes as Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie Cancer Care, QUIT, No Smoking Day and ASH team up for Lung Cancer Awareness Month in January. It is the first time the charities have joined forces to highlight lung cancer issues.

The UK average is 72 cases per 100,000 of population for men and 35 cases per 100,000 for women.

Top of the men’s lung cancer cases table is Scotland with 101 men diagnosed with lung cancer per 100,000 of population. The area with the lowest level is the South and West of England with 55 cases per 100,000.

Scotland also has the highest number of cases in women – 54 cases per 100,000. While the South and West of England again notch up the lowest level for women – 24 cases per 100,000.

The reason for this north-south divide is down to smoking patterns. Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer – nine out of 10 cases of the disease are caused by smoking tobacco. Smoking levels are higher in deprived communities and among manual workers.

Professor Martin Jarvis, assistant director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit, says: “More people in the south work in ‘white collar’ industries which generally have lower levels of smoking. The north has a higher level of deprivation, but also a higher level of manual workers.

“Studies have shown that manual workers are twice as likely to smoke as people working in an office. We can see these smoking patterns mirrored in the number of lung cancer cases.”

However, there is some good news. Rates of lung cancer in the UK were among the highest in the world. But in the last two decades they have dropped.

Clive Bates, director of ASH says: “Smoking is the primary reason for the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. People in deprived communities should be given all the help they need to quit smoking and so further reduce lung cancer rates.”

Steve Crone, Chief Executive of QUIT adds: “Over 70 per cent of smokers want to break their nicotine addiction. We must ensure that there is enough local and national advice available to these people. Stopping smoking is the primary way of bringing the levels of lung cancer down.”

He adds that QUIT’s new counselling by e-mail service [email protected] will encourage more smokers to stop.

Chris Dainty, Communications Director of Marie Curie Cancer Care points out that lung cancer is a particularly difficult cancer to treat and that awareness of the disease is vital.

“Working with these partners will help us widen the information available and raise awareness about lung cancer and tobacco throughout Lung Cancer Awareness Month,” says Dainty.

Doreen McIntyre, Chief Executive of No Smoking Day, adds: “Stopping smoking really can be a life saver – wherever someone lives. This is a great incentive for the millions of smokers planning to stop this No Smoking Day.”

Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK says: “Prevention and health education are especially important in the battle against lung cancer because it is the easiest cancer to prevent – yet nearly 39,000 people die every year from lung cancer. All of the partners in Lung Cancer Awareness Month want to see an end to this tragic situation.”