Lung Cancer Fact Sheet
Below are facts and statistics on lung cancer, looking at trends in mortality, prevalence, gender and racial differences, survival rate and burden (i.e., impact of disease). To understand how lung cancer starts, different types, how it affects your body and other lung cancer basics, visit our Learn About Lung Cancer section.
- 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
- An estimated 154,050 Americans are expected to die from lung cancer in 2018, accounting for approximately 25 percent of all cancer deaths.2
- The number of deaths caused by lung cancer peaked at 159,292 in 2005 and has since decreased by 6.5 percent to 148,945 in 2016.1
- The age-adjusted death rate for lung cancer is higher for men (46.7 per 100,000 persons) than for women (31.9 per 100,000 persons). It is similar for blacks (40.0 per 100,000 persons) and whites (39.2 per 100,000 persons) overall. However, 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 541,000 Americans living today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives.3
- During 2018, an estimated 234,030 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 2015, 86 percent of those living with lung cancer were 60 years of age or older.3
- In 2015, Kentucky had the highest age-adjusted lung cancer incidence rates in both men (105.6 per 100,000) and women (77.5 per 100,000). Utah had the lowest age-adjusted cancer incidence rates in both men and women (29.6 per 100,000 and 22.1 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 2.1 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths in 2018.5
- The National Institutes of Health estimate that cancer care cost the U.S. an overall $147.5 billion in 2015, $13.4 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
- More men are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, but more women live with the disease. The rate of new cases in 2015 showed that men develop lung cancer more often than women (57.8 and 45.9 per 100,000, respectively).3
- The rate of new lung cancer cases (incidence) over the past 41 years has dropped 35 percent for men while it has risen 87 percent for women. 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
- Black men and women 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 30 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
What Does Survival Rate Mean?
Doctors use lung cancer survival rates or survival statistics to tell you the percentage of people who survive a certain type and stage of cancer for a specific amount of time. It is based on population averages and is not a predictor of how long any one individual diagnosed with cancer will live. Learn more.
- The lung cancer five-year survival rate (18.6 percent) is lower than many other leading cancer sites, such as colorectal (64.5 percent), breast (89.6 percent) and prostate (98.2 percent).3
- The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 56 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 16 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 5 percent.3
- More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.3
Screening and Early Detection
- Screening for individuals at high risk has the potential to dramatically improve lung cancer survival rates by finding the disease at an earlier stage when it is more likely to be curable.
- Early detection, by low-dose CT screening, can decrease lung cancer mortality by 14 to 20 percent among high-risk populations.8,9
- About 8 million Americans qualify as high risk for lung cancer and are recommended to receive annual screening with low-dose CT scans.10
- If half of these high risk individuals were screened, over 12,000 lung cancer deaths could be prevented.10
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.11
- 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.12
- Nonsmokers have a 20 to 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work.13
- 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.14
- 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.15
- 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.16
- 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.14 Environmental exposures also can increase the risk of lung cancer death.17
For more information, please review the Lung Cancer Morbidity and Mortality Trend Report or call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872).
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. National Center For Health Statistics. CDC WONDER On-Line Database, Compiled from Compressed Mortality File 1999-2016 Series 20 No. 2V, 2017.
- Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer Statistics, 2018. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2018; 68:7-30. doi:10.3322/caac.21442.
- U.S. National Institute Of Health, National Cancer Institute. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2015.
- U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. State Cancer Profiles, 2017.
- World Health Organization. Cancer Fact Sheet, 2018.
- U.S. National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Trends Progress Report – Financial Burden of Cancer Care. November, 2015.
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. National Health Interview Survey, 2016. Analysis by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit Using SPSS Software.
- de Koning HJ, Meza R, Plevritis SK, ten Haaf K, Munshi VN, Jeon J. Benefits and Harms of Computed Tomography Lung Cancer Screening Strategies: A Comparative Modeling Study for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014; 160(5):311-20. doi:10.7326/M13-2316.
- Aberle DR, Adams AM, Berg CD, et al. Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed Tomographic Screening. New England Journal of Medicine. June2011; 365(5):395-409. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1102873.
- Cheung LC, Katki HA, Chaturvedi AK, Jemal A, Berg CD. Preventing Lung Cancer Mortality by Computed Tomography Screening: The Effect of Risk-Based Versus U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Eligibility Criteria, 2005–2015. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2018; 168(3):229-32. doi:10.7326/M17-2067.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2004.
- U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking — 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2014.
- U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke A Report of the Surgeon General. 2006.
- Alberg AJ, Samet JM. Epidemiology of Lung Cancer. Chest. 2003; 123:21S-49S. doi:10.1378/chest.123.1_suppl.21S.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A Citizen’s Guide to Radon.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Toxicology Program. 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC).; 2011.
- Loomis D, Grosse Y, Lauby-Secretan B, et al. The Carcinogenicity of Outdoor Air Pollution. The Lancet Oncology. 2013; 14(13):1262-3. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70487-X.
*Racial and ethnic minority terminology reflects those terms used by the Centers For Disease Control.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 3, 2016.
Page Last Updated: December 14, 2018
Sign up for the latest lung health news delivered right to your inbox.
Join more than 500,000 people who receive research updates, inspiring stories, health information and more.