A new study has revealed the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United Kingdom are now all linked to smoking, with lung, breast and ovarian cancers being the most frequent.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that in the last decade the rate of lung cancer in Britain had tripled, while ovarian cancer had increased by one third.
The study also found that ovarian cancer rates had increased almost eight-fold in just 10 years.
Professor Paul Meehan, of the University’s School of Medicine, said: ‘Cancer is becoming increasingly a worldwide public health problem.’
The new findings suggest that smoking is becoming a major risk factor for lung cancer, and it may also be one of the main factors in the rise of other cancers, such as breast and colon cancer.’
In the US, we have seen an increase in the number of women in their 50s and 60s with lung cancer.
We know from previous studies that smoking increases the risk of lung and colon cancers.’
So we have to take the data together to understand why lung cancer rates are increasing in the population.’
Professor Meeham said the results of the study had implications for public health strategies, as smokers were increasingly seen as the main risk factor of cancer.
He said:’Smoking is not just about what people are doing.
It’s about what they are exposed to.’
If you are exposed, even if you don’t smoke, your body may produce a number of chemicals, and this can have a number effect on your health.’
He said the findings showed that the smoking rate had increased five-fold since the 1970s.
Professor Meesh said the rate was still too high, but that the current rate of smoking in the NHS was ‘in the tens of thousands’.
He said that as the number and types of cancers increased, smoking could be the ‘major driver’ for cancers of the lung and breast, as well as the more common ovarian cancer.
The number of cancers diagnosed in England was currently at its lowest level since the 1960s, but the proportion of cancers that were related to smoking was rising rapidly, with cancers in women, men and young people at a higher risk.
Professor Anthony Smith, director of the National Cancer Institute, said the research was encouraging.
He added: ‘It’s encouraging that the number is still so low and that so many of these cancers are being diagnosed in people who don’t even know they have them.’
It’s also encouraging that we know that many of the cancers that are occurring in people are also being seen in those who have not developed them.
‘It really is a complex problem.’