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Lung cancer on the decline, but still higher among men than women



While lung cancer is generally on the decline among both sexes, men have a ways to go to catch up with women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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From 2007 to 2016, rates dropped among both sexes in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, according to Mary Elizabeth O’Neil, MPH, and colleagues. Their report is in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019 Nov 8;68[44];993-8). But lung cancer incidence in 2016 was still 40% higher among men than among women, said Ms. O’Neil, an epidemiologist at the CDC.

Rather than narrowly focusing on the “just stop smoking” message, “a comprehensive approach to lung cancer prevention and control includes such population-based strategies as screening for tobacco dependence, promoting tobacco cessation, implementing comprehensive smoke-free laws, testing all homes for radon and using proven methods to lower high radon levels, and reducing exposure to lung carcinogens such as asbestos.” According to the authors of the report, “increasing the implementation of these strategies, particularly among persons living in nonmetropolitan counties, might help to reduce disparities in the decline of lung cancer incidence.”

The recommendation is based on data extracted from the U.S. Cancer Statistics Database for 2007-2016. The data cover 97% of the population.

In nonmetropolitan counties in 2007, incidence rates among men were 60% higher (99 vs. 61 per 100,000). Although rates decreased in both sexes, they were still elevated compared with women in 2016 (82 vs. 58 per 100,000; 40%).

Over the 10-year period, the rate declined more among men than among women (–2.9% vs. –1.5%) in metropolitan areas. The pattern repeated in nonmetropolitan areas (–2.1% and –0.5%, respectively).

There were different declines in different age groups by region, the authors noted.

Men aged 45-54 years in metropolitan areas experienced the largest decline (–5.2%).

Among women, the largest decline occurred in metropolitan areas among those aged 35-44 years (–5%). In nonmetropolitan areas, women in this age group experienced a 3.6% decline and women aged 65-74 years, a 1.3% decline.

Among persons aged 35-54 years, incidence rates in nonmetropolitan and metropolitan counties did not differ by sex but were higher in nonmetropolitan counties than in metropolitan counties.

There were also overall changes in smoking patterns. According to 2017 data from the National Health Interview Survey data, more adults in metropolitan areas than nonmetropolitan areas smoked (23% versus 13%) but fewer had tried to quit (50% vs. 56%). Successful quitting attempts also were lower (5% vs. 9%).

Although it is a large contributing factor, smoking is not the only risk factor for lung cancer, the authors wrote. About 10%-15% of lung cancer patients have never smoked tobacco. Nonsmoked tobacco products and second-hand exposure to cigarette smoke are risks, as are indoor radon and asbestos exposure.

Clinicians can help improve this scenario by screening at each office visit, the authors said. The recommendation is based on U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidance.

“Lung cancer screening is recommended for adults at high risk for developing lung cancer because of their age and cigarette smoking history. Screening efforts can identify lung cancer in its early stages and provide an important opportunity to promote tobacco smoking cessation.”

However, lack of insurance among residents of nonmetropolitan areas may hamper access to these services, they said. In those regions, “a higher percentage of residents aged less than 65 years report being uninsured compared with those in metropolitan areas.”

SOURCE: O’Neil ME et al. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019 Nov 8: 68(44);993-8.

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