Facts Page


“Lung Cancer Seems To Be The Least Talked About Cancer
And Yet It’s One Of The More Deadly Cancers.” 1

  • During 2008, it was estimated that there would be 215,020 new cases of lung cancer (114,690 among men and 100,330 among women). Lung cancer will account for about 15% of all new cancer diagnoses. (Source: American Cancer Society)

 

  • Lung Cancer is the most common type of cancer in women in the U.S. (Source: Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center).

 

  • During  2008, it was estimated that there would be 161,840 deaths from lung cancer (90,810 among men and 71,030 among women), accounting for about 29% of all cancer deaths.  More women die each year from lung cancer than from breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers combined. Every hour of every day, 19 people die from lung cancer and at least 15-percent never smoked. Lung cancer is considered a silent killer, since the disease is most often not detected until it is in a terminal stage (see Early Detection section of our site). (Source: American Cancer Society)

 

  • Approximately 90% of all lung cancers occur among smokers and approximately 10% occur among non-smokers (MLF Note: Some recent research indicates that approximately 8% of men and 20% of women diagnosed with lung cancer were never-smokers — see High Rates of Lung Cancer Found for Female Non-smokers). Passive smoking contributes to the development of lung cancer among non-smokers and certain occupational exposures such as asbestos exposure are also known to cause lung cancer. (Source: National Cancer Institute) A newly announced study conducted at Brigham Young University and New York University indicates that long term exposure to air pollution in major US cities significantly raises the risk of dying from lung cancer and is about as dangerous as living with a smoker. (Source: MSNBC News)  “Although cigarette smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, other risk factors include industrial exposures to agents such as asbestos, arsenic, uranium, nickel, and chromates as well as exposures to the indoor air pollutants such as formaldehyde and radon gas. There are a significant number of patients who do not have the risk factors outlined above. Lung cancer is not necessarily a self-inflicted disease by smoking. The incidence of lung cancer in women without a history of prior smoking has increased in recent years. Histologic types of lung cancer are different between smokers and non-smokers. The majority of patients with no prior smoking have a histologic type of adenocarcinoma as opposed to either squamous cell carcinoma or small cell carcinoma, common in patients with prior smoking. Estrogens are known to act as tumor promoters through a receptor-mediated mechanism in reproductive organs. There are some reports of estrogen receptor expression in lung cancer, and it is possible that the lung is an estrogen-responsive organ and that women are more susceptible to lung cancer than men, suggesting a role for estrogen in the development of this disease.” (Source: Noah C. Choi, M.D., Distinguished Scholar in Thoracic Oncology, Director of MGH Thoracic Oncology Center, Head of Thoracic Oncology Unit,  Massachusetts General Hospital)

 

  • Lung Cancer funding by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is abysmal, as compared to its funding for other cancers. For example, in 2007, the NCI funding per each new lung cancer case was $10,553, as compared to $74,435 per each new cervical cancer case, $67,950 per each new brain cancer case, $44,758 per each new ovarian cancer case, $31,033 per each new breast cancer case, and $17,364 per each new colorectal cancer case. Of the twelve cancers funded by the NCI, only stomach cancer, at $5,581 per each new case, received a lower level of funding than lung cancer in 2007.

 

  • The one year survival rate for lung cancer was 35% in 1975-1979 and 41% in 2000-2003, with the small increase largely due to improvements in surgical techniques and combined therapies. The five year survival rate for all stages of lung cancer combined is only 15%. This has not changed over many years. For people whose cancer is found and treated early with surgery, before it has spread to lymph nodes or other organs, the average 5 year survival rate is about 49%. However, only 16% of people with lung cancer are diagnosed at this early stage. (Source American Cancer Society)

 

The following is excerpted from Gender And Your Health, cbsnews.com, June 19, 2002.  Per this report, the following information was compiled from several medical studies held from 2000-2002:

  • Women smokers are 70 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than men.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of women.
  • For each cigarette smoked, the danger is twice as high for women.
  • Researchers claim estrogen is what makes women more vulnerable.
  • Even non-smokers who develop lung cancer are 2 1/2 times more likely to be female than male.
  • Estrogen may heighten the effects of exposure to tobacco smoke and other substances linked to lung cancer.
  • Three-quarters of cancer patients will survive at least five years if the tumor is caught at the earliest stage; almost half will survive if it’s caught before growing beyond its local area.
  • Only one in seven cancers are detected that early, and most lung cancers attack more aggressively and faster than other cancers.
  • Symptoms often do not appear until the lung tumor is large and sometimes not even until it has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Only 14 percent of lung cancer patients survive for five years (down there with liver, esophageal and pancreatic cancers)
  • By comparison, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 85 percent, prostate cancer 93 percent and skin cancer 88 percent.

1 MSNBC Interview with Dr. Mark Kris of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center