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Call for appropriate resources to combat the leading cancer killer of women
Washington, DC [April 26, 2010]--For decades, our organizations have stood together to protect the rights of women, including the health and well being of ourselves and our families. As we have done -- and will continue to do -- for the millions of women have died from breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine and other gynecological cancers, we stand today in support of those women who have been diagnosed with lung cancer.
We commend Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Women’s Health Policy and Advocacy Program at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology and the Lung Cancer Alliance on the release of the report Out of Shadows: Women and Lung Cancer. This report indeed brings this disease out of the shadows by providing the most current and comprehensive overview of women’s biggest unmet public health challenge: lung cancer.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women, killing more women each year than breast and all gynecological cancers combined. Lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women in the US over twenty years ago. Every day nearly 300 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer and about 200 women will die of it.
Lung cancer incidence in women has increased six-fold over the past 30 years. Many women diagnosed with lung cancer are smokers or former smokers who were lured to tobacco use by tobacco industry advertising that glorified smoking as a symbol of women’s independence. We may have “come a long way” but tragically, for too many women, the path traveled ended with lung cancer.
But lung cancer in women cannot be attributed to smoking alone. As the report points out, twenty percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer today have never smoked. Among non-smokers with lung cancer, women appear to be two to three times more likely than men to develop the disease. There also appears to be a rising trend in lung cancer among younger women who have never smoked.
While second-hand smoke is often blamed for lung cancer in non-smoking women, the Report points out that a growing body of evidence suggests that genetic, hormonal, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to differences in lung cancer between women and men. Unfortunately, because lung cancer receives fewer research dollars than any other major cancer, we cannot know the source of these differences.
This striking gap in research funding for a disease that impacts women so heavily is not new. We have long recognized the role of politics in health research funding. With lung cancer, these politics have been complicated by the stigma associated with the disease. Patients blame themselves for their diagnosis; so do their loved ones; and so does the public at large. Add lung cancer’s dismal survival rate to this mix, and you understand why there are so few advocates calling for an end to this disease.
We are lending our collective voice to the call to end this deadly disease. Along with every other disease that devastates women, we call upon researchers and the public health community to devote appropriate resources to combat lung cancer. No one deserves to die of lung cancer. No one.
American Medical Women’s Association
Black Women’s Health Imperative
Center for Women’s Policy Studies
Feminist Majority Foundation
General Federation of Women’s Clubs
Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization
National Council of Women’s Organizations
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Women’s Health Network
National Women’s Law Center
Society for Women’s Health Research
Woman's National Democratic Club
Women in Thoracic Surgery