Lung Association Report Reveals that Black Americans in Pennsylvania are More Likely to be Diagnosed with Lung Cancer; State Ranks Among Top for Survival and Treatment

“State of Lung Cancer” report examines toll of lung cancer in Pennsylvania, 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 Pennsylvania ranks among the best in the nation for lung cancer survival 5-years after diagnosis and percent of cases receiving treatment; and among worst for smoking and high levels of indoor radon.

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 Pennsylvania, Black Americans in state are 17% more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than white Americans.

“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 Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in Pennsylvania to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease, including ensuring everyone who is at high risk is screened for lung cancer; making sure everyone has access to quality and affordable healthcare; promoting testing of homes for radon and ensuring significant funding for proven prevention and quit smoking programs.”

The report found that Pennsylvania ranked:
•    32 in the nation for lung cancer incidence at 63 per 100,000. Black Americans are 17% more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer at 74.1 per 100,000 vs. 63.4 for white Americans.  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.
•    13 in the nation for survival at 25.1%, which is above average and shows an 18% improvement in past five years. The national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 23.7%.
•    20 in the nation for early diagnosis at 24.9%, which is a 39% improvement over past five years. Nationally, only 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher.
•    18 in the nation for lung cancer screening at 7.5%. 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.
•    10 in the nation for surgery at 22.6%. 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.
•    15 in the nation for lack of treatment at 18.4%. Pennsylvania ranks among the top for receiving treatment after diagnosis. Nationally, 21.1% of cases receive no treatment.
•    39 in the nation and among worse at 39.1%. for expected proportion of high radon levels statewide. Nationally, it is estimated that 21.8% of results would show high levels of radon. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It’s a colorless and odorless gas that can seep into homes and buildings. Some geographical areas naturally have higher average radon levels than others, but since any home can be at risk for elevated levels, the only way to know is to do a test.
•    32 in the nation, and among the worst for smoking at 17.3%. Nationally, the percent of adults who are current smokers is 15.3%. 
•    In Pennsylvania, Black Americans are 17% more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer (74.1 per 100,000 vs. 63.4 per 100,000 white Americans); 11% less likely to receive surgery; and 12% more likely to receive no treatment after diagnosis than white Americans.

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 media interested in speaking with a lung cancer expert about advances in lung cancer and the "State of Lung Cancer" 2021 report or lung cancer survivor about their experience, contact Val Gleason  at the American Lung Association at [email protected] 717-971-1123.

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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