Research into lung cancer held up by smoking stigma

2 May 2013 | Firm news


Simon Ellis, partner at Hugh James and expert in industrial disease, believes more needs to be done to drive awareness of the causes of this complex condition and remove the stigma attached to it. Lung cancer is one of the UK’s biggest killers, claiming more victims each year than any other cancer. Yet, partially due to the stigma attached to the condition, it is not receiving the research investment it needs to drive forward a cure.

Lung cancer is the cause of 35,000 deaths per year in the UK; twice as many as bowel cancer and 3 times as many as breast cancer. Yet it receives a comparatively small percentage of research investment, which many believe is partially due to the stigma attached to the disease. It is often associated with smoking and thus perceived as self-inflicted, with many unaware of the large number of other factors that can cause it to develop.

A number of workplace related issues can contribute to lung cancer. Exposure to asbestos without proper protection can increase the likelihood of a number of cancers, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Unfortunately, people continue to be exposed to the harmful building material decades after its carcinogenic effects were first discovered, and many sufferers are not advised that their condition may have been caused by the effects of asbestos exposure.

Hugh James has represented numerous patients who have developed lung cancer after decades of working in the coal industry. It is now known that dust and gases from the production of coke fuel can cause diseases of the lung such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and respiratory disease.

Simon Ellis, Partner at Hugh James and expert in industrial disease, commented: “With lung cancer the largest cancer-related killer in the UK, patients deserve to have more research conducted to help increase their chances of survival and bring an end to this killer disease. Greater public awareness of the myriad causes of lung cancer is also needed to put an end to the stigma surrounding the disease and help raise funds for essential research.”

Despite the stigma, work is being done to improve lung cancer research. The Lung Cancer Alliance aims to pool the resources of the piecemeal small-scale clinical trials occurring across the country, with the aim of eventually offering every lung cancer patient in the country access to a clinical trial. Pooling the resources of the UK’s many localised trials gives studies access to larger numbers of cancer patients, reducing the time it takes to run studies and find results. It is hoped initiatives like these will help to bring scientists a step closer to a cure and improve the lives of lung cancer sufferers worldwide.

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