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September 5, 1977

Epidemic Lung Cancer in Women

Author Affiliations

Connecticut Cancer Epidemiology Unit New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1977;238(10):1055. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280110059027

Only 40 years ago, the cause of lung cancer was completely unknown except in a few cases of occupational exposure.1 As our recognition grew that smoking is the predominant cause of lung cancer in men, we unfortunately accepted the concurrent rarity of lung cancer among women as evidence that they were resistant to the disease. Our society remains ambivalent about smoking. A cigarette advertisement encourages women to seek "liberation" by smoking. It shows a young, glamorous woman with a long cigarette and says: "You've come a long way, baby."

As recently as 1930, only 2% of women 18 years of age and older were smokers, when nearly 30 times as many men had the habit.2 Times have changed. A 1975 survey showed that teenage girls and young women smoked nearly as much as their male counterparts.3 An epidemic of lung cancer among women was predicted five years