Lung cancer in the UK

The BBC presenter Mr. Robert Peston known more for his cutting edge stories on the credit crises and status of the global economy, deviated from his normal self and wrote an insight article on the status of the lung cancer research in the UK.  

Incidentally, Robert's wife - Sian Busby who was a life long non-smoker died of lung cancer died of lung cancer on September 2012  at a young age of 51.

The statistics revealed in the article paints a disturbing picture. According to  Mick Peake, the clinical leader of the National Cancer Intelligence Network Lung cancer accounts for around 13% of all cancers in the UK and 22% of cancer deaths,  So that's 42,000 new cases identified every year, and around 35,000.

To put that into  context of other forms of cancer, the next biggest cancer killer is bowel, which accounts for just under 16,000 mortalities per annum and then breast, which kills under 12,000 a year.

What is also striking, and horrifying, is how quickly lung cancer kills sufferers. Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 83.3% of breast cancer sufferers are alive five years after diagnosis, just over 51% of bowel cancer sufferers live at least five years and 79% of prostate cancer sufferers survive five years.

In stark contrast, the five year survival rate for lung cancer is 8.8% for women and 7.4% for men.

Here is perhaps an even more chilling number: according to the ONS more than 70% of lung-cancer sufferers are dead in less than a year after diagnosis.

The article states  one reason on why lung cancer patients have such high mortality is the meager  funding for lung cancer research.  The conclusion is based on the data  published by the National Cancer Research Institute, which receives information on cancer research spending from 22 organisations responsible for most cancer research in the UK.  Cancer Research UK (the most important research organisation), the Department of Health, Wellcome Trust and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry have provided extensive data for the study. 

In 2012, breast cancer received research funding of £ 41 mm, Leukaemia received research funding of £ 32 mm, bowel cancer received £ 35 mm, Prostate cancer got £ 21 mm and lung cancer - remember it is the biggest killer - got less than £ 15mm. In fact, 

The trend has continued for the past 11 years where Lung cancer has received significantly less than these other cancers have secured for research in every one of the 11 years of data published by the NCRI.

Breast cancer receives just over £3,500 of research funding per death from the disease. Leukaemia receives over £7000 of research funding per mortality. Lung cancer receives just over £400 per death.

There is a wide perception hat lung cancer sufferers have only themselves to blame, because they've smoked all their lives, and they tend to be old.  The median age of diagnosis for lung cancer is 72, but with 42,000 diagnosed every year there are many thousands of sufferers who are much younger. Moreover,  experts have also stated  that they have historically over-estimated the link between smoking and lung cancer. Mick Peake, for example, says that around 10% or men and 15% of women who have the disease are people - like  Robert's late wife - who have never smoked. Others say that around 20% are never smokers. So that is, as a minimum, more than 5,000 new cases per year in people who have never smoked and around 4250 deaths.

Of course there is a strong causal link between smoking and lung cancer. But is depriving smokers of help and hope tantamount to saying that addicts of all sort should be left to rot - which most people presumably say would be an appalling attitude?