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June 11, 2014
Lung cancer still the leading cause of cancer deaths

Cancer continues to be the leading cause of death in Canada.  

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, it is estimated 75,500 people died from the disease in 2013.  Of those that fell victim to the disease, more than 20,000 died from lung cancer, more than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined.

While lung cancer is usually associated with smoking, approximately 15 per cent of its victims either never smoked, or tried it as teenagers and quit shortly afterwards.  

“A growing number of people with lung cancer are people who smoked as teenagers and then quit when they were very young.  There’s a growing number of never-smokers with this disease,” says Dr. Natasha Leighl of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre of Toronto.

Exposure to radon gas or work-related carcinogens may be responsible for the large number of non-smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer, she says.

Five-year survival rates for lung cancer have risen to 18 per cent from the five per cent level of a few years ago.  Improved understanding of how lung cancer spreads at the molecular level, along with drugs that help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells, are credited with the improved mortality rate.

While these results are encouraging, plan sponsors and claims adjudicators should not be surprised when non-smokers are diagnosed with the disease.

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