Lung cancer: Both the most preventable and most deadly in Belgium

Lung cancer: Both the most preventable and most deadly in Belgium
Lung cancer. Credt: Robina Weermeijer at Unsplash

Every year, 2,206,000 new lung cancers are detected globally – largely down to smoking. The disease kills 1,796,00 people each year. With World Lung Cancer Day on 1 August, Belgium's Cancer Foundation stresses that lung cancer is the most preventable cancer.

It is also the deadliest cancer in Belgium, claiming the lives of nearly 6,000 people a year. Of the 71,651 cancers reported in Belgium in 2019, 8,874 (12%) were lung cancer. Nearly two-thirds (5,624) of cases relate to men, often over 65 years old. Women over 55 are also at risk.

Screening high-risk ex-smokers

A scheme to test ex-smokers for lung cancer has been initiated by the universities of Antwerp and Louvain to identify people at risk of lung cancer and start treatment before the disease spreads.

"Early detection of lung cancer can save lives. This is only useful for high-risk (ex-) smokers. We can take a first step towards establishing a screening program in population," said Snoeck. Funding of €249,780 over four years will be allocated to continue the project.

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Although screening can save people at risk if detected early, the Cancer Foundation stresses that screening won't replace the most effective measure: not smoking.

Smoking is the main cause of the cancer. The drug is so deadly that in a tobacco-free world, nine in ten lung cancers would be avoided. For Belgium's Cancer Foundation, it is therefore key to reduce the number of smokers, which it aims to do via its free Tobaccostop service. Through donations, the Foundation finances research and prevention.

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