For decades the leading cause of death among women worldwide was breast cancer. While that remains constant for women in poorer nations, wealthier women are dying more frequently from lung cancer. And the cause? You guessed it; smoking.

Lung cancer remains the major cause of early deaths among men. The reason for the increase for females is directly attributable to the fact that women only began to smoke in larger numbers more than three decades ago.

So called developing countries witness their citizens indulge in more unhealthy practices than the people of poorer nations. They eat foods with higher concentration of fats and preservatives; they drink more alcoholic beverages; use tobacco products more frequently; and tend to be more sedentary.

The results of this over-indulgence is revealed in statistics. Developing countries account for 57 percent of cancer cases worldwide and 65 percent of all cancer deaths. By the 1950’s lung cancer became the leading cause of death for men in the United States; for women it passed breast cancer in the 1980’s.

There is some good news; the number of smokers in wealthier countries has leveled, or in some cases reveal diminishing numbers. Scientists say that at least one-half of all cancers are preventable. In the case of smoking; if you don’t smoke now, don’t start. If a smoker quits by the time he or she is middle-aged, the chances of developing lung cancer decrease by as much as 60 percent.

The latest research reveals that more than one in three individuals will contract a form of cancer in their lifetime; the statistics are somewhat deceiving. The average lifetime of both men and women has increased. The number of deaths related to heart disease is on the decline. These two factors together increase the possibility that people will develop some form of cancer in a prolonged lifetime. Methods which allow doctors to diagnose cancers at an earlier stage have given medical science the ability to help an ever-increasing number of patients survive.

Doctors predict that with a decrease in the numbers of women who choose to smoke, statistics will be drastically altered within the next two decades.

By James Turnage



Web MD

The Salt Lake Tribune

Photo Courtesy of Stefan Zabunov

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