(CBS) Health officials are breathing easier, now that data show that lung cancer rates are declining in the U.S. among both women and men.
Between 2006 and 2008, rates of new lung cancer cases among men fell in 35 states, according to a new CDC report. During the same period, new cases among women fell in six states. Overall incidence of lung cancer fell for women after rising steadily for decades - a new trend that the agency called "promising."
"Over the past 20 years, lung cancer overtook breast cancer and became the No. 1 cancer killer of women," Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, told the Associated Press. This is a horrific development that we have begun to turn around."
What's behind the good news? Credit reduced rates of smoking across the U.S. Cigarette smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke cause most cases of lung cancer, which is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.
"Although lung cancer among men and women has decreased over the past few years too many people continue to get sick and die from lung cancers, most of which are caused by smoking." D Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a written statement. "The more we invest in proven tobacco control efforts, the fewer people will die from lung cancer."
States that invested more resources in tobacco control policies and raised cigarette taxes saw larger declines in smoking.
The report - published in the September 15 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report - found lung cancer rates were uneven across gender and location.
While men saw lung cancer declines in many states, the rates remained stable in nine. States with the lowest male lung cancer rates were clustered in the West.
Lung cancer rates among women declined or remained the same in 30 states, but increased slightly in 14 states.
Which states bucked the trend and reported increases?