Health

Lung cancer one-year survival rate 'improving'

Lung cancer
Image caption Smoking is the biggest avoidable risk factor for lung cancer

The proportion of lung cancer patients alive a year after diagnosis in England has improved "significantly", data shows.

Public Health England's National Cancer Intelligence Network said twice as many patients had been alive after 12 months in 2011 as in 1990.

They say the rise is due to improvements in treatments and earlier diagnoses.

Lung cancer in men is declining, but the incidence among women is rising.

This follows the trend in smoking patterns.

The number of men smoking has declined sharply over the past two decades. But since World War Two, there has been a rise in the number of women smoking, leading to an increase in lung cancers.

The data showed 17% of lung cancer patients diagnosed in 1990 were alive one year later, compared with 29% of men and 33% of women diagnosed in 2010.

The figures do not cover five-year survival rates, but experts say no more than 10-11% will be alive at that stage.

Lung cancer kills about 28,000 people every year in England. Smoking is the biggest avoidable risk factor.

'Core targets'

A recent campaign encouraging people with a cough lasting longer than three weeks to get checked out was credited with improving diagnosis rates, with 700 extra cases picked up in 2012 compared with 2011.

And there have been improvements in a range of treatments, including the development of medications such as biological therapies, which can stop the spread of cancer cells, and techniques such as cryotherapy where cells are frozen.

The stage and type of a patient's cancer determines which treatments are most suitable,

Dr Mick Peake, from the National Cancer Intelligence Network, said: "This report shows that we are gradually making inroads into improving the survival from this common cancer.

"Our one-year survival figures show that we are now approaching the outcomes of those other countries where the survival has historically been significantly better than in England.

"However, there is much more to be done for lung cancer patients with the majority still dying within a year of diagnosis."

Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK's head of statistics, said: "It's great news that lung cancer in men has fallen by more than a third since the early 1990s.

"Trends in lung cancer incidence rates reflect past trends in cigarette smoking - many men quit smoking from the 1950s onwards, so we are now seeing the positive impact of that.

"Unfortunately this smoking fall didn't occur for women until later - after they had become the core targets of the tobacco industry's marketing strategy, so their lung cancer rates are still increasing.

"We also know that starting smoking at a young age greatly increases the risk of lung cancer."

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