Why is lung cancer the most deadly cancer in the world? Why is this type of cancer the one that kills the most globally?
Lung cancer is closely related to smoking, although, in recent years, new factors have favoured the development of the disease.
Lung cancer is the deadliest of all types of cancer.
According to figures published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012, there are 1.8 million new cases of people suffering from the disease each year.
One out of every five people with lung cancer has it, and the high relationship between incidence and mortality is very high.
But why is this type of cancer-killing the most globally?
A key characteristic of lung cancer is that it is slow to give signs.
“When lung cancer gives symptoms, it is because it is generally at such an advanced stage that there is no possibility of cure,” Dr Iris Boyeras Navarro, a specialist in Pulmonology and coordinator of the Thoracic Oncology section of the Argentine Association of Medicine, told BBC Mundo. Respiratory, within the framework of World Cancer Day.
Cough and shortness of breath can be one of the symptoms.
As he clarified, only 1 in 4 cases is diagnosed in time to achieve a cure through surgery.
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Symptoms and detection
Cough, spitting up blood, shortness of breath, agitation, and chest pain.
“But when there are any symptoms, it may already be late,” Boyeras Navarro remarked.
“To detect it early, all smokers over 40 who have consumed a pack per day for 20 years should have a chest tomography performed annually.
“This is a study of high complexity, cost and exposure to radiation, so we do not have a study, as with breast cancer, that is easy and cheap that allows mass detection of cancer in early cases; that is why it is the that causes more deaths,” added the doctor.
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Smoking: the culprit
The leading cause behind lung cancer continues to be cigarette smoking.
“Approximately 84% of lung cancer deaths are attributable to smoking,” notes a 2012 WHO report.
“The estimate of tobacco consumption is more than a billion smokers in the world, and of those, 127 million live in the region of the Americas,” said Adriana Blanco, head of the Risk Factors Unit of the Pan American Organization of the Health (PAHO).
Tobacco contains the substance that is nicotine. This is a mild psycho-stimulant drug that is addictive. As with all things, a tiny percentage of people seem to be not very susceptible to addiction. For most people, nicotine is just as addictive as illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin.”
Adriana Blanco, head of the Risk Factors Unit of the Pan American Health Organization.
And how can consumption be reduced?
That the countries implement and respect the WHO agreement for tobacco control, Blanco told BBC Mundo.
It is an international treaty that was approved at the World Health Assembly in 2003, which entered into a global force in 2005 and which includes at least four critical measures:
Implement smoke-free tobacco environments in all closed public workplaces and public transport.
Including ample graphic health warnings on tobacco, packaging informs people of the risks.
A total ban on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products.
We are increasing the prices of tobacco products by raising taxes.
The latter, “on the one hand, allows the country to reduce consumption, but since it is an addictive element, it is not reduced as much as would be expected in the price increase of another non-addictive product,” added the specialist.
One of the measures in the fight against smoking is that cigarette packages carry inscriptions about adverse health effects.
Currently, 180 states on the planet have adhered to the agreement, and in the region of the Americas, 30 countries have done so.
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The others affected
Although the leading risk group for lung cancer in men and heavy smokers, a new set of the population began to be affected.
“We are beginning to see that between 20 and 25% of the cases, depending on each country, are patients who have never smoked and, within that group, many women,” said Dr Iris Boyeras Navarro.
And the causes are under study.
“Some factors being analysed are, for example, exposure to wood smoke, passive smoking, environmental exposure, genetic factors that have to do with heredity, hormonal factors such as hormone replacement therapy in the post-menopause, etc.”, listed Boyeras Navarro.
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Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related death in the Americas (this includes the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean), with more than 324,000 new cases and nearly 262,000 deaths. Each year, according to 2012 data from the Pan American Health Organization.
The report also highlights that in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than two-thirds of new lung cancer cases occur in men.
The number of new lung cancer cases in women is almost four times higher in North America than in Latin America and the Caribbean.
And among men, the number of new cases and deaths from lung cancer is more than two times higher in North America than in Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to projections, in 2030, there will be more than 541,000 new cases and approximately 445,000 deaths from lung cancer throughout the Americas.