Lung cancer mortality in young women in the European Union (EU) has steadily increased until the mid 1990s and has levelled off thereafter, but trends have been heterogeneous in various countries. We analyzed therefore age-standardized trends in lung cancer mortality in young women (20–44) for the 6 major European countries, using joinpoint regression. In the early 1970s the highest lung cancer mortality in young women was in the UK (2.1/100,000). UK rates, however, steadily declined and in 2000–2004 they were the lowest of all 6 major EU countries (1.2/100,000). The second lowest rate in 2000–2002 was in Italy, whose rates remained around 1.1/100,000 between 1970 and 1994, and increased to 1.4 thereafter. In Germany and Poland, lung cancer rates in young women rose from 0.8–1.0/100,000 in the early 1970s to 1.7–1.9 in the mid 1990s and levelled off during the last decade. Major rises over recent years were observed in France (from 0.8/100,000 in 1985–1989 to 2.2 in 2000–2003) and in Spain (from 0.8 in the 1985–1989 to 1.7 in 2000–2004). Thus, France showed both the highest rate observed over the last 3 decades and the largest rise over the last 2 decades. Since recent trends in the young give relevant information to the likely future trends in middle age, the female lung cancer epidemic is likely to expand in southern Europe from the current rates of 5.0/100,000 in Spain and 7.7 in France to approach 20/100,000 within the next 2–3 decades. Urgent interventions for smoking cessation in women are therefore required. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.