Lung Cancer Rates for Canadian Women among the Highest in the World



Lung cancer rates among Canadians are very high.

In fact, it’s the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canadian men and women. What’s really surprising though is that out of the 34 countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the lung cancer rate for Canadian women is one of the highest. No one really knows why.

In 2012, the death rate from lung cancer for Canadian women was 47.0 per 100,000 people.  The average death rate from lung cancer for women from the other OECD countries was only 26.5 per 100,000 people. The rate for Canadian women is the same as the Netherlands, and among the OECD countries, only Iceland and Denmark have higher rates – 49 and 50 deaths per 100,000 people respectively. Also alarming is the increasing incidence of lung cancer among women who have never smoked. Female non-smokers are twice as likely to develop lung cancer as men who never smoked.

Smoking rates during the 1980’s could be one reason for the high rate of lung cancer among women in Canada. In 1980, 30% of Canadian women smoked daily as compared to 14% in 2010. Smoking rates among men started to drop off during the 1960’s. Today, the smoking rate among Canadian men is one of the lowest in the OECD – just 17% of Canadian men smoke.

While lung cancer rates among Canadian men are on the decline they’re still higher than rates for women at 72.3 per 100,000 people. The mortality rate for men is much closer to the OECD average rate of 66 per 100,000 people than the women’s rate is.

There’s a lag of about 30 years between a reduction in smoking rates and a change in the rate of incidence of cancer. There’s hope that lung cancer rates among Canadian women will soon start to fall as they have for men.

Written by Randy Howden. Visit me on

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