Lung cancer is likely to overtake breast cancer as the main cause of cancer deaths among European women.
New research published in the cancer journal Annals of Oncology found that this would occur by the middle of the decade.
In the UK and Poland lung cancer has already overtaken breast cancer as the main cause of deaths in women.
The study by researchers in Italy and Switzerland predicts that just over 1.3 million people will die from cancer (737,747 men and 576,489 women) in the 27 countries of the European Union in 2013.
Although the actual numbers have increased when compared with 2009, the rate of people who die from the disease has declined. Since 2009 there has been 6% fall among men and 4% fall among women.
However, despite the decline in cancer deaths overall, lung cancer death rates continue to rise among women in all countries, while breast cancer rates fall.
Sally Greenbrook, Senior Policy Officer at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, says:
“It’s encouraging that breast cancer mortality rates in the UK and across Europe are falling. Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s dedication to promoting early detection and developing better treatments has helped make this possible.
“However, we must not become complacent as there is still more vital work to be done. In the UK, breast and lung cancer are the two biggest causes of cancer deaths in women, with 12,000 dying every year from breast cancer alone. We need to dedicate more research into the prevention and treatment of these diseases to save more lives in the future.”
Deaths from breast cancer have been declining steadily, with a 7% fall in rates since 2009 in the EU.
One of the study’s authors, Professor Carlo La Vecchia (MD), head of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mario Negri Institute and professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Milan (Italy), said:
“This reflects the important and accumulating advances in the treatment, as well as screening and early diagnosis, of the disease.”