updated 2/8/2011 7:48:59 PM ET 2011-02-09T00:48:59

Lung cancer deaths in women are rising almost everywhere in Europe, a new study says.

Researchers used data on cancer deaths from the World Health Organization and the European Union from 1970 to 2007 to predict cancer deaths for 2011. They estimated there would be 1.3 million cancer deaths in Europe this year, a drop of 6 percent in women and 7 percent in men. Cancer rates were highest in Poland and lowest in countries including France, Germany and Italy.

The death rates for major cancers including stomach, uterus, prostate and leukemia will all likely fall in 2011.

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But the number of women dying from lung cancer is spiking everywhere in Europe except the U.K., where rates are leveling off after a decade of increasing. In Britain and Poland, more women are dying of lung cancer than breast cancer. In European men, lung cancer rates have been steadily dropping. The trend reflects similar patterns in the U.S., where rates of lung cancer in women peaked years after the epidemic in men.

The study was published online Wednesday in the journal, Annals of Oncology.

Carlo La Vecchia, a cancer expert at the Mario Negri Institute and the University of Milan, who led the study, said the reasons for Europe's high lung cancer rates among women may be partly cultural.

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"Women may have greater difficulty stopping smoking because when you stop, you tend to gain three to four kilograms (six to nine pounds)," La Vecchia said. "For women, it may be more of a psychological addiction that is harder to break."

La Vecchia added that because many European women only began smoking in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the peak of lung cancer among women is yet to come.

According to Cancer Research U.K., lung cancer rates in women have trailed those of men because women started smoking later than men. Although public smoking bans in the West have cut smoking rates, lung cancer takes decades to develop, so any benefit from more people quitting cigarettes won't been seen for years.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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