Lung Cancer is a major global health problem. Approximately 500 000 new cases are diagnosed annually. In the UK, lung cancer accounts for 20% of all malignancies, with 36,000 new cases presenting each year. It is the most common cancer amongst males in the UK.
The incidence of cancer of the lung is now falling, probably as a reflection of changing smoking habits within the population.
The fall in lung cancer incidence however is principally amongst men, and there appears to be an increase in the incidence of cancer in women. This is predominantly due to a rise in the diagnosis of adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer of the lung less related to smoking.
Recent statistics have shown for the first time slightly more deaths from lung cancer amongst women in the UK in 1999 than from breast cancer, traditionally the biggest cancer killer of women. This trend reflects the improved treatment of breast cancer. Mortality from breast cancer has fallen rapidly in recent years, unlike lung cancer, where there has been little change in the mortality figures.
Mesothelioma is a rare malignancy of serosal surfaces, commonly affecting the pleura and linked to previous asbestos exposure. There is a long latency between asbestos exposure and the development of the disease of approximately 20 years.
The incidence is rising in the UK and Europe, and is predicted to peak in 2020, and then decrease due to controls now in place regarding asbestos use.