Here’s a sad bit of irony from the health news department: The type of cancer that’s killing the majority of women in so-called developed nations can be quite preventable in some cases — and it can come down to a matter of personal choice.

According to a study published Wednesday in “CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians,” a peer-reviewed journal associated with the American Cancer Society, lung cancer has unseated breast cancer as the most prolific killer of women in wealthy countries, as U.S. News reported that day:

Legions of women began smoking four decades ago, and the dire consequences are just being seen now in wealthy countries, the researchers explained. Lung cancer has been the leading cause of cancer deaths among men in developed countries for decades, and the leading cause of cancer death for U.S. women for some years.

The disease is almost always caused by smoking, said lead researcher Lindsey Torre, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society. “But it takes about two to three decades to see lung cancer deaths due to smoking, because lung cancer does take a long time to develop,” she said.

“The lung cancer deaths we are seeing today really have to do with smoking trends we saw in the 1970s, when women really started to pick up smoking,” Torre said.

“In many developed countries breast cancer death rates have been stable or decreasing for the past couple of decades, which is due to early detection and improved treatments,” said Torre.

Lung cancer has been the worst offender for U.S. women in terms of cancer-related deaths for some time; the news here is the study’s findings about other countries in the same economic orbit being part of this unfortunate trend. That said, lung-cancer death rates among American women have leveled off, according to Torre.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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