Lung cancer diagnoses of UK women to outnumber men’s for first time

The number of women diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK is expected to overtake men this year for the first time, according to projections that have prompted calls for women to be as vigilant about the disease as they are about breast cancer.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for one in five of the total. It has one of the worst cancer survival rates, which is largely attributed to diagnoses at a late stage, when treatment is less likely to be effective.

Analysis by Cancer Research UK for the Guardian suggests women will overtake men for lung cancer diagnoses in 2022-24.

The projections suggest that this year, female cases will eclipse male cases for the first time, with 27,332 and 27,172 cases respectively.

Cancer experts said the “very stark” figures reflected historical differences in smoking prevalence, specifically that smoking rates peaked much earlier in men than women. Women should now be as alert to potential lung cancer signs as they were about checking for lumps in their breasts, they said.

Every year since records began, more men than women have been diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK. The most recent statistics show that for the period 2016-18 there were 25,404 male cases and 23,396 female cases. The incidence rate for every 100,000 people was 91 in men and 71 in women. But this year, the gender balance will reverse.