HC Deb 02 May 1955 vol 540 cc1324-5
12. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health the number of deaths from lung cancer in England and Wales at the latest date; and what are the comparable figures for 1934 and 1944.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Iain Macleod)

The provisional number of deaths attributed to cancer of the lung in 1954 is 16,332. The numbers of deaths so attributed in 1934 and 1944 were 2,775 and 6,684.

Mr. Dodds

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate the fear which exists throughout the country in view of the rapid increase in deaths through lung cancer? Can he at some time make some statement indicating what has been done to try to deal with the problem? Would the right hon. Gentleman himself try to expedite some sort of control over chemists dealing with food that goes into the household, because many people feel that nowadays food contains ingredients which should not be consumed by human beings and which help to cause cancer?

Mr. Macleod

I could not accept the implication of the last part of that supplementary. It is true that this graph is rising steeply, and it is a matter of very great concern. A number of inquiries are going on, and most particularly the one that is being made by the Medical Research Council into the question whether there is any connection between smoking and this disease.

Mr. Hastings

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise the great importance to the health of the community resulting from the pronouncements that he made on this subject some few months ago? Will he consider making a similar pronouncement setting forth our increased knowledge as a result of research up to date?

Mr. Macleod

I recognise the public anxiety here, and I shall be very glad to consider this suggestion.

Dr. Stross

Would it not be true to say that, whatever be the cause of this disease—and many people now suspect what may be the cause—it cannot be the ingestion of any foodstuffs that is causing the rise in cancer of the lung, for it would affect women as well as men, and that it does not do?

Mr. Macleod

Whatever may be the reason, it is true that this increase is very much more—indeed, it is more than twice as great—amongst men than women, which would seem to indicate a special cause.