Lung Association Report: Alabama Ranks as the Worst State in the Nation for Lung Cancer Survival Rate

“State of Lung Cancer” report examines toll of lung cancer in Alabama, identifies opportunities to save lives

The 2021 “State of Lung Cancer” report shows that people of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to whites, and that Alabama ranks worst in the nation for five-year survival rate of lung cancer. 

The American Lung Association’s 4th annual report, released today, highlights how the toll of lung cancer varies by state and examines key indicators throughout the U.S. including: new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening rates. This is the second year that the “State of Lung Cancer” report explores the lung cancer burden among racial and ethnic minority groups at the national and state levels.

The report reveals that the lung cancer five-year survival rate increased 14.5% nationally to 23.7% yet remains significantly lower among communities of color. In fact, while the national lung cancer survival rate increased, it remains at only 20% for communities of color and 18% for Black Americans. Here in Alabama, Black Americans are least likely to receive surgical treatment for lung cancer. 

“While we celebrate that more Americans are surviving lung cancer, too many people are being left behind, and the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths,” said Ashely Lyerly, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association. “With Alabama having the worst lung cancer survival rate in the nation, it’s clear much more can and must be done to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease, like passing comprehensive smokefree laws and making sure that everyone who is at high risk is screened for lung cancer.”

The report found that Alabama ranked:

  • 37th in the nation for lung cancer incidence at 64 per 100,000. Incidence refers to the number of new cases of lung cancer in each state. The national lung cancer incidence is 57.7 per 100,000.
  • 45 out of 45 (the number for which data is available) in the nation for survival at 18.4%. The national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 23.7%. Alabama’s five-year survival rate is worst in the nation.
  • 35 of 49 for early diagnosis at 23.7% (average). Nationally, only 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher.
  • 34 of 50 in the nation for lung cancer screening at 5.4% (average). Lung cancer screening with annual low-dose CT scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%. Nationally, only 5.7% of those at high risk were screened.
  • 38 of 49 in the nation for surgery at 17.7% (below average). Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Nationally, 20.7% of cases underwent surgery. Alabama is well below the national average.
  • 27 of 49 in the nation for lack of treatment at 20.4% (average). Nationally, 21.1% of cases receive no treatment.
  • In Alabama, Black Americans are least likely to receive surgical treatment for lung cancer. 

While the “State of Lung Cancer” report findings show significant work to be done, there is hope. In March of 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force expanded its recommendation for screening to include a larger age range and more current or former smokers. This dramatically increased the number of women and Black Americans who are eligible for lung cancer screening.

The Lung Association encourages everyone to join the effort to end lung cancer. Go to Lung.org/solc to learn more about lung cancer in your state and sign our petition to increase funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect our nation’s health from disease, including lung cancer.

For current and former smokers, there are lifesaving resources available. Find out if you are eligible for lung cancer screening at SavedByTheScan.org, and then talk to your doctor about getting screened. 

Learn more about "State of Lung Cancer" at Lung.org/solc. 

For more information, contact:

Jill Dale
312-940-7001
[email protected]

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