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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Indirectly estimated absolute lung cancer mortality rates by smoking status and histological type based on a systematic review

Peter N Lee* and Barbara A Forey

Author Affiliations

P N Lee Statistics and Computing Ltd, Sutton, Surrey, UK

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:189  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-189

Published: 9 April 2013

Abstract

Background

National smoking-specific lung cancer mortality rates are unavailable, and studies presenting estimates are limited, particularly by histology. This hinders interpretation. We attempted to rectify this by deriving estimates indirectly, combining data from national rates and epidemiological studies.

Methods

We estimated study-specific absolute mortality rates and variances by histology and smoking habit (never/ever/current/former) based on relative risk estimates derived from studies published in the 20th century, coupled with WHO mortality data for age 70–74 for the relevant country and period. Studies with populations grossly unrepresentative nationally were excluded. 70–74 was chosen based on analyses of large cohort studies presenting rates by smoking and age. Variations by sex, period and region were assessed by meta-analysis and meta-regression.

Results

148 studies provided estimates (Europe 59, America 54, China 22, other Asia 13), 54 providing estimates by histology (squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma). For all smoking habits and lung cancer types, mortality rates were higher in males, the excess less evident for never smokers. Never smoker rates were clearly highest in China, and showed some increasing time trend, particularly for adenocarcinoma. Ever smoker rates were higher in parts of Europe and America than in China, with the time trend very clear, especially for adenocarcinoma. Variations by time trend and continent were clear for current smokers (rates being higher in Europe and America than Asia), but less clear for former smokers. Models involving continent and trend explained much variability, but non-linearity was sometimes seen (with rates lower in 1991–99 than 1981–90), and there was regional variation within continent (with rates in Europe often high in UK and low in Scandinavia, and higher in North than South America).

Conclusions

The indirect method may be questioned, because of variations in definition of smoking and lung cancer type in the epidemiological database, changes over time in diagnosis of lung cancer types, lack of national representativeness of some studies, and regional variation in smoking misclassification. However, the results seem consistent with the literature, and provide additional information on variability by time and region, including evidence of a rise in never smoker adenocarcinoma rates relative to squamous cell carcinoma rates.

Keywords:
Lung cancer; Absolute rates; Squamous cell carcinoma; Adenocarcinoma; Smoking