Trends in cancer mortality sex ratios in Europe, 1950-1989

World Health Stat Q. 1992;45(1):117-64.


A study was carried out to analyse trends in cancer mortality sex differentials. This study compared age-standardized sex ratio values for mortality from 18 cancers (or groups of cancers), and total cancer mortality over the period 1950-1989 in 24 European countries, for 4 age groups (all ages, 20-44 years, 45-64 years, and 65 years and over). For lung cancer and other tobacco-related neoplasms, appreciable rises in sex ratio values were observed until the late 1970s, particularly in Southern and Eastern Europe, before levelling off in recent years, particularly among the younger age groups. In the late 1980s, the range of variation in overall age-standardized sex ratios for lung cancer was between 2 and 3 in the United Kingdom and in Nordic countries, and around or over 10 in Southern Europe. In young adults, the decline in sex ratio values observed in Denmark and Sweden (unity), and in other Nordic countries and in the United Kingdom (around or below 2) reflects a levelling of lung cancer in young males and an increase in young females. This clearly indicates that young women are a priority target group for smoking control interventions in Europe. Appreciable cohort effects were also observed for stomach cancer: rises in sex ratio values were greater in, or restricted to, middle- and older age groups, whereas in the young there was some tendency towards a levelling in sex differentials. The overall sex ratio values for stomach cancer were around 2 in most areas of Europe in the late 1980s. For intestinal cancer, sex ratio values showed some tendency to rise, reaching a level of 1.3-1.7 in the late 1980s; steady rises were also registered in sex ratio values for melanoma (skin cancer), reaching 1.5-1.8 in the late 1980s in most countries. These upward trends which were minor or inconsistent at younger ages in several countries became progressively stronger with advancing age. Sex ratio values were below unity for cancers of the gallbladder and the thyroid. Sex ratio values tended to rise also for leukaemia (from 1.2-1.5 to 1.5-1.7), but showed no noticeable trend for lymphomas or myeloma. The overall sex ratio values for total cancer mortality in the 1950s were between 1.2 and 1.4 in most European countries. Thereafter, they rose appreciably in several countries, reaching 1.9 in Czechoslovakia, Italy and Poland, and 2.3 in France.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Sex Ratio*