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Lung Cancer Fact Sheet

  • Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the U.S. In 1987, it surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. 1
  • Lung cancer causes more deaths than colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined. An estimated 158,040 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2015, accounting for approximately 27 percent of all cancer deaths. 2
  • The number of deaths caused by lung cancer has increased approximately 3.5 percent between 1999 and 2012 from 152,156 to 157,499. The number of deaths among men has plateaued but the number is still rising among women. In 2012, there were 86,740 deaths due to lung cancer in men and 70,759 in women. 1
  • The age-adjusted death rate for lung cancer is higher for men (56.1 per 100,000 persons) than for women (36.4 per 100,000 persons). It also is higher for blacks (48.3 per 100,000 persons) compared to whites (45.6 per 100,000 persons). Black men have a far higher age-adjusted lung cancer death rate than white men, while black and white women have similar rates. 1

Prevalence and Incidence

  • Approximately 402,326 Americans living today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives. 3
  • During 2015, an estimated 221,200 new cases of lung cancer were expected to be diagnosed, representing about 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses. 2
  • The majority of living lung cancer patients have been diagnosed within the last five years. Lung cancer is mostly a disease of the elderly. In 2011, 82 percent of those living with lung cancer were 60 years of age or older. 3
  • In 2011, Kentucky had the highest age-adjusted lung cancer incidence rates in both men (112.2 per 100,000) and women (79.3 per 100,000). Utah had the lowest age-adjusted cancer incidence rates in both men and women (34.5 per 100,000 and 25.0 per 100,000, respectively). 4 These state-specific rates were parallel to smoking prevalence rates.
  • Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths in 2012. 5
  • The National Institutes of Health estimate that cancer care cost the U.S. an overall $124.6 billion in 2010, $12.1 billion of which is due to lung cancer. Lost productivity due to early death from cancer lead to an additional $134.8 billion in 2005, $36.1 billion of which was caused by lung cancer. 6

Gender Differences

  • More men are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, but more women live with the disease. The rate of new cases in 2011 showed that men develop lung cancer more often than women (64.8 and 48.6 per 100,000, respectively). 3
  • The rate of new lung cancer cases (incidence) over the past 37 years has dropped for men (28 percent decrease), while it has risen for women (98 percent increase). In 1975, rates were low for women, but rising for both men and women. In 1984, the rate of new cases for men peaked (102.1 per 100,000) and then began declining. The rate of new cases for women increased further, did not peak until 1998 (52.9 per 100,000), and has now started to decline.3

Racial/Ethnic Differences

  • Blacks are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than persons of any other racial or ethnic group. The age-adjusted lung cancer incidence rate among black men is approximately 32 percent higher than for white men, even though their overall exposure to cigarette smoke, the primary risk factor for lung cancer, is lower. 3, 7
  • The lung cancer incidence rate for black women is roughly equal to that of white women, despite the fact that they smoke fewer cigarettes. 3, 7

Survival Rates

  • The lung cancer five-year survival rate (17.8 percent) is lower than many other leading cancer sites, such as the colon (65.4 percent), breast (90.5 percent) and prostate (99.6 percent). 3
  • The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 54 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. For distant tumors (spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 4 percent. 3
  • More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. 3

Smoking-Attributable Lung Cancer

  • Smoking, a main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, contributes to 80 percent and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Women are 13 times more likely, compared to never smokers. 8
  • Between 2005 and 2010, an average of 130,659 Americans (74,300 men and 56,359 women) died of smoking-attributable lung cancer each year. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year. 9
  • Nonsmokers have a 20 to 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work. 10

Other Causes

  • It has been estimated that active smoking is responsible for close to 90 percent of lung cancer cases; radon causes 10 percent, occupational exposures to carcinogens account for approximately 9 to 15 percent and outdoor air pollution 1 to 2 percent. Because of the interactions between exposures, the combined attributable risk for lung cancer can exceed 100 percent. 11
  • Exposure to radon is estimated to be the second-leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year (range of 8,000 to 45,000). Radon is a tasteless, colorless and odorless gas that is produced by decaying uranium and occurs naturally in soil and rock. The majority of these deaths occur among smokers since there is a greater risk for lung cancer when smokers also are exposed to radon. 12
  • Lung cancer can also be caused by occupational exposures, including asbestos, uranium and coke (an important fuel in the manufacture of iron in smelters, blast furnaces and foundries). The combination of asbestos exposure and smoking greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer. 13
  • Nonsmoking asbes­tos workers are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than non­smokers not ex­posed to asbestos; if they also smoke, the risk factor jumps to 50 or higher. 11 Environmental exposures also can increase the risk of lung cancer death. 14

For more information on lung cancer, please review the Lung Cancer Morbidity and Mortality Trend Report at www.lung.org or call the American Lung Association at1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

  • Sources
    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. CDC WONDER On-line Database, compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2012 Series 20 No. 2R, 2014.
    2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures, 2015.
    3. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2011.
    4. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. State Cancer Profiles ;web tool, accessed October 6, 2014.
    5. World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. GLOBOCAN 2012: Estimated Cancer Incidence, Mortality and Prevalence Worldwide in 2012. Lung Cancer. Accessed November 10, 2014.
    6. U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2011/2012 Update. Costs of Cancer Care.
    7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2010. Analysis by the American Lung Association, Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
    8. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General, 2004.
    9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014.
    10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2006.
    11. Alberg AJ, Samet JM. Epidemiology of Lung Cancer. Chest. 2003; 123:21-49.
    12. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A Citizen's Guide to Radon. January 2013.
    13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Toxicology Program. 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC). June 10, 2011.
    14. Jerrett M, et al. Spatial Analysis of Air Pollution and Mortality in Los Angeles. Epidemiology. November 2005; 16(6):727-36.

*Racial and ethnic minority terminology reflects those terms used by the Centers For Disease Control.

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