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Lung Cancer Alliance Renews Call For Earlier Detection And Research Funding

Friday, April 01, 2011 [Washington, DC]-- Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) called again today for a comprehensive plan of action that will make reducing lung cancer mortality a public health priority.

Citing the latest figures released by the National Cancer Institute yesterday, LCA President and CEO, Laurie Fenton Ambrose said lung cancer continues to be the leading cancer killer, with mortality rates far higher than any other cancer: nearly twice the rate of breast cancer and almost three times that of prostate cancer and colon cancer.

"While it is encouraging that death rates are trending downward in the past five years compared to the previous ten, we have very far to go in addressing this epidemic,” she said.  “Even if these small increments continue, it will take decades to bring lung cancer death rates down to the level of other cancers.”

Fenton Ambrose emphasized, “We must set aside all the stigma and blame, recognize that three out of four new lung cancer cases are former smokers or never smokers, and put together  - for the first time - a comprehensive and coordinated  plan of action that will address simultaneously prevention, early detection, research, treatment and better outcomes.

“Over the next five years to ten years we could see the most significant decrease in lung cancer mortality ever if we work together to implement an efficient, safe, accurate and cost effective screening program for those at high risk,” she said.

NCI’s recently ended 53,000 person trial demonstrated that smokers and former smokers over age 55 screened for lung cancer with CT scans had 20% fewer lung cancer deaths than those screened with chest x-rays.  By contrast, mammography screening reduces overall breast cancer deaths by 15%.

“This is a profound benefit; CT screening can reduce lung cancer mortality by tens of thousands of people a year. Given that lung cancer causes one in every three cancer deaths, CT screening those at high risk would bring about the biggest single drop in overall cancer mortality we have ever seen.” Fenton Ambrose said.

“In addition, screening a high risk population can help researchers validate which biomarkers and genetic signals can identify non-smokers at risk in the broader population and help determine which nodules found on a scan are malignant,” she noted.

The NCI figures show that from 2003-2007 the death rate for lung cancer among men was reduced by 2.1% from the rate of the previous ten years and now stands at 68.8%. That is, for every 100,000 adult men in the U.S. population, 68.8 will die of lung cancer. The death rate among men for prostate cancer is 24.7 and for colon cancer 21.2.

For women, 40.6 of every 100,000 adult women will die of lung cancer, compared to 24.0 of breast cancer and 14.9 of colon cancer. The slight downward reduction in overall lung cancer death rates of 0.2% during the period 2003-07 from the previous ten years was not seen among American Indian and Alaskan Natives were there was a 1.2% increase.

As for incidence rates, the number of women being diagnosed with lung cancer for each 100,000 adult women in the population showed a slight downward trend overall, but the decrease was not uniform.  The rate for African American and Hispanic women dropped, but increased among white, Asian and Pacific Islander, and American Indian and Native Alaskan women.

 Incidence rates for men - the number being diagnosed out of every 100,000 men in the population - are continuing to drop and now stand at 84.9 overall. But African American men still have a significantly higher rate of 87.5 - the highest of all ethnic populations and 23% higher than white males.

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