Learn More about Lung Cancer


Lung Cancer in the United States: Facts

Approximately 215,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. each year – over 100,000 women and nearly 115,000 men. This means an American is diagnosed with lung cancer every 2.5 minutes. (1)

Lung cancer kills more than 160,000 people annually – more people than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.( 1)

Lung cancer is responsible for more than 29% of all cancer-related deaths every year. (1)

Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. Approximately 87 percent of lung cancer cases occur in people who are currently smoking or have previously smoked. (2)

Although the risk of developing lung cancer goes down with smoking cessation, a significant risk remains for 20 years or longer after quitting. (2, 3)

Approximately 50 percent of all lung cancers (106,500) occur in people who have already quit smoking. (4)

Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and the leading cause of lung cancer among never-smokers. (5)

More people who have never smoked die from lung cancer than do people from AIDS or liver cancer or ovarian cancer. (6, 7)

Risk factors for lung cancer other than those from smoking include lung scarring from tuberculosis, and occupational or environmental exposures to radon, second-hand smoke, radiation, asbestos, air pollution, arsenic and some organic chemicals. (1)

Only 16 percent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed before their disease has spread to other parts of their bodies, (e.g., regional lymph nodes and beyond), compared to more than 50 percent of breast cancer patients, and 90 percent of prostate cancer patients. (1, 8)

Men’s mortality (death) rates from lung cancer began declining more than 20 years ago, while women’s lung cancer mortality rates have been rising for decades and just recently began to stabilize. (9)

African Americans experience the highest incidence of lung cancer, and the highest death rate.(10)

Roughly 84 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within five years of their diagnosis, compared to 11 percent of breast cancer and less than 1 percent of prostate cancer patients. (1)

Less money is spent on lung cancer research than on research on other cancers. In 2006, the National Cancer Institute estimated it spent only it spent only $1,638 per lung cancer death compared to $13,519 per breast cancer death, $11,298 per prostate cancer death, and $4,588 per colorectal cancer. (1, 11)

How Can I Reduce My Risk?

If you smoke, get the help you need to quit (state quitlines can be accessed at www.naquitline.org or by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW).

If you live in an area with high levels of radon coming from the bedrock (see www.epa.gov/radon), consider having your house tested for radon exposure. If radon levels are too high, a device can be installed to reduce them.

Eat a well-balanced diet and exercise. These activities help reduce the risk of all cancers.

If you smoke now or smoked in the past, or have a family history of lung cancer, consider speaking to your doctor about screening tests that may be available to you. Cancer is most treatable when it is detected early.

References Cited
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2007. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2007. Satcher, D., T.G. Thompson and J.P. Kaplan, Women and smoking: a report of the Surgeon General. Nicotine Tob Res, 2002. 4(1): p. 7-20.

Ebbert, J.O., et al., Lung cancer risk reduction after smoking cessation: observations from a prospective cohort of women. J Clin Oncol, 2003. 21(5): p. 921-6.

Tong, L., M.R. Spitz, J.J. Fueger, and C.A. Amos, Lung carcinoma in former smokers. Cancer, 1996. 78(5): p. 1004-10.

National Research Council, Health Effects of Exposure to Radon: BEIR V. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1999.

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005; 54(25):625-628

Hoyert, D.L., M.P. Heron, S.L. Murphy, H. Kung. Deaths: Final Data for 2003. National vital statistics reports; 54(13). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2006.

American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2005-2006. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc.

Jemal, A., R.C. Tiwari, T. Murray, A. Ghafoor, A. Samuels, E. Ward, E.J. Feuer, and M.J. Thun, Cancer statistics, 2004. CA Cancer J Clin, 2004. 54(1): p. 8-29.

Centers for disease Control and Prevention, Health, United States, 2006 National Center for Health Statistics: Atlanta, GA. p. 180, 244.

National Cancer Institute Snapshots: http://planning.cancer.gov/disease/snapshots.shtml
Last updated 01/07/08

Latest posts by WBFJ (see all)