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Lung Cancer in Men

In 2015 (the most recent year that numbers are available), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 113,535 men were diagnosed with lung cancer, compared to 104,992 women. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than women.1

The American Cancer Society estimates that the overall chance of a man developing lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 14. This is compared to a 1 in 17 chance for women. The risk increases if an individual smokes tobacco, as tobacco smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. The risk is lower for non-smokers.2

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the U.S., and men are more likely to die from lung cancer than women.3 Several studies have demonstrated that women generally have better response rates to treatment for lung cancer, regardless of the stage of their disease, the type of lung cancer, or the treatment received. Studies of both non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) have demonstrated that male patients have lower survival rates than their female counterparts. These differences in outcomes were seen in patients with lung cancer who were treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or targeted therapy.4

Declining Incidence of Lung Cancer in Men

Lung cancer increased dramatically over most of the 20th century in the U.S. as successive generations of men began smoking at progressively younger ages. American men began smoking earlier in the 20th century than women, whereas smoking began to increase in women after World War II.5

The inherent risk in cigarette smoking for lung cancer is evident when looking at the trends of smoking in society. Men had a peak smoking rate approximately two decades earlier than women, and the number of diagnoses of lung cancer in men followed this trend. For the past two decades, the overall incidence of lung cancer has been declining, believed to be the positive result of anti-smoking strategies. This decline in diagnoses has been seen predominantly in men, with the incidence of lung cancer in women only recently beginning to decline.3,4,6,7

Differences in Lung Cancer Tumors in Men

The type of lung cancer differs between men and women. Women are more likely to develop adenocarcinoma rather than other types. Squamous cell carcinoma is more common in men than women, although the majority of lung cancers in men are also adenocarcinomas.4,8 Men are less likely to have tumors that are positive for the EGFR mutation than women.8,9

Differences in Ethnicity in Lung Cancers in Men

Black men are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than men of any other race/ethnicity. According to the CDC, as of 2013, black men have the highest incidence rate for lung cancer, followed in order by white, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic men.1,6

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: March 2019.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online on 3/29/19 at
  2. American Cancer Society. Accessed online on 8/18/16 at
  3. American Lung Association. Accessed online on 8/1/16 at
  4. Medscape. Accessed online on 8/18/16 at
  5. Thun MJ, Carter BD, Feskanich D, Freedman ND, Prentice R, Lopez AD, Hartge P, Gapstur SM. 50-year trends in smoking-related mortality in the United States. N Engl J Med. 2013 Jan 24;368(4):351-64.
  6. SEER Cancer Statistics Factsheets: Lung and Bronchus Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD. Accessed online on 3/29/19 at
  7. Chakraborty S, Ganti AK, Marr A, Batra SK. Lung cancer in women: role of estrogens. Expert Rev Respir Med. 2010 Aug;4(4):509-518. doi: 10.1586/ers.10.50.
  8. Gazdar AF, Thun MJ. Lung cancer, smoke exposure, and sex. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25:469–471.
  9. My Cancer Genome. Accessed online on 8/11/16 at