The findings, published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, point to a need for more aggressive political action and strategies for reducing smoking by a new generation of men and women in all U.S. states, researchers said.
"Yes, we are making progress in reducing death rates for lung cancer, but there is really a new epidemic and we have to pay attention to increasing death rates in women," said Ahmedin Jemal, the study's lead author and a researcher at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia.
Lung cancer currently accounts for about one in four cancer deaths in the U.S., making it the top cancer killer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But lung cancer deaths among both men and women have been steadily declining since the 1990s, a trend usually credited to public health campaigns and state policies, like cigarette taxes and smoking bans, designed to encourage people to quit smoking and discourage young people from starting.
Previous research has shown that women born in 1950 and afterwards are an exception to the recent decline.