How Common Is Lung Cancer?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2013 (the most recent year that numbers are available), 212,584 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer. That includes 111,907 men with lung cancer and 100,677 women with lung cancer.1 The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016, 224,390 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer (117,920 in men and 106,470 in women), and there will be about 158,080 deaths from lung cancer (85,920 in men and 72,160 in women).2

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. More people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. In fact, as of 2013, more people die each year from lung cancer than from colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.1 The percentage of lung cancer deaths is highest among people 65-74 years of age, with a median age at death of 72 years of age.3

Lung cancer statistics generally combine both small cell lung cancers and non-small cell lung cancers. Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for approximately 85% of lung cancers, with small cell lung cancer accounting for the remaining 15% of all lung cancers.4

The rates for new cases of lung cancer have been decreasing over time, falling on average 1.8% each year over the last 10 years. Death rates have also been declining, falling on average 2.2% each year between 2004 and 2013. Five-year survival (living at least five years from diagnosis) rates are increasing, with the most recent data showing a 5-year survival rate of 16.8% in 2004 increasing to 18.7% in 2008.3

Statistics on Demographics of Lung Cancer

  • Men are more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than women, but more women live with lung cancer.5
  • Black men are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than white men. Black women have similar incidence rates of lung cancer compared to white women, but they are more likely to die from their disease.3,5
  • According to the CDC, black men have the highest incidence rate for lung cancer, followed by white, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic men.1
  • Among women, white women have the highest rate of getting lung cancer, followed by black American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic women.1
  • Lung cancer mostly affects the elderly. It is most commonly diagnosed in people 65-74 years of age. In 2011, 82% of lung cancer patients were 60 years of age or older.3,5

Statistics on Incidence of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer increased dramatically over most of the 20th century in the U.S. as successive generations of men, and later women, began smoking at progressively younger ages. Men in America began smoking earlier in the 20th century, with women increasing smoking after World War II.6

Statistical analyses have demonstrated that quitting smoking at any age significantly lowers the risk of death from all major smoking-related diseases, including lung cancer. Nearly all the risk of death from smoking-related diseases can be avoided if someone quits smoking before age 40.6

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: January 2017.
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