Lung cancer rates have been falling across the country for both men and women, but despite this, the lung cancer death rates for middle-aged women have been rising in the South and Midwest, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Reuters reports that the study’s lead author, Dr. Ahmedin Jemal of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, stated:
“Yes, we are making progress in reducing death rates for lung cancer, but there is really a new epidemic and we have to pay attention to increasing death rates in women.”
NPR reports that there is a huge discrepancy between Americas best and worst states for lung cancer rates. While California’s rate has dropped in half, Alabama’s has more than doubled. To explain the discrepancy, Dr. Jemal states that, “Lung cancer follows the smoking pattern.”
Therefore, because California was the first to put excise taxes on cigarettes and ordinances banning smoking in bars and at work, their rate will decrease sooner. On the other side, Alabama, as well as other states in the South and Midwest have not been nearly as aggressive.
According to Reuters, Dr. Jemal stated that:
“California was the first state to implement a tobacco control program, the first state to have statewide comprehensive ban on smoking in work places. We can only speculate that the decreasing lung death rate (in California) is due to aggressive tobacco control policies, but we can’t confirm that.”
From their research, the scientists noted that when it came to the baby boomer generation, the numbers of young women dying of lung cancer was higher than their predecessors, despite taxes and quit smoking programs, but only in some states, like Alabama. For New York and California, the rates continued to drop.
Dr. Ping Yang, a lung cancer researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, who was not involved in the study, believes that it was limited by a lack of information on smoking rates and the differences in lung cancer treatment and care.
Dr. Jemal, however, believes that the study shows that weak anti-smoking policies could be to blame for higher lung cancer mortality rates in the South and Midwestern states.