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Lung Cancer in Men

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men. In 2019, an estimated 116,404 men will be diagnosed with lung cancer, compared to 111,710 women. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer than women.1-2

The American Cancer Society estimates that the chance of a man developing lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 15. This is compared to a 1 in 17 chance for women. The risk increases if an individual smokes tobacco because smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. The risk is lower for non-smokers.1

How does lung cancer differ between men and women?

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.1

Several studies have shown that women generally respond better to lung cancer treatment. This trend holds regardless of the stage of their disease, the type of lung cancer, or the treatment received. Studies of non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer found that males have lower survival rates than females. These differences held true whether the people with lung cancer were treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or targeted therapy.3

Declining incidence of lung cancer in men

Lung cancer in the U.S. increased dramatically over most of the 20th century as generations of men began smoking at younger ages. American men began smoking earlier in the 20th century than women, but smoking began to increase in women after World War II.4

The link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer became evident over decades. Men had a peak smoking rate about 2 decades earlier than women. The number of new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in men followed this trend too. More recently, the overall rate of lung cancer declined in the last 2 decades. Most doctors believe this to be the result of the decline in smoking. This trend has been seen mostly in men, with the rates of lung cancer in women only recently beginning to decline.1-3,5-6

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.3,7 Men are less likely to have tumors that are positive for the EGFR mutation than women.7,8

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 National Cancer Institute, as of 2016, black men had the highest rates for lung cancer in the U.S. This was followed by white, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic men.1,5

Written by: Emily Downward & Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: December 2019
  1. Key Statistics for Lung Cancer. American Cancer Society. Available at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lungcancer-non-smallcell/detailedguide/non-small-cell-lung-cancer-key-statistics. Accessed 11/25/19.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United States Cancer Statistics: Data Visualizations. Available at https://gis.cdc.gov/Cancer/USCS/DataViz.html. Accessed 11/25/19.
  3. Rivera MP. Lung Cancer in Women: The Differences in Epidemiology, Biology and Treatment Outcomes. Medscape. Available at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/713744. Accessed 8/18/16.
  4. 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.
  5. SEER Cancer Statistics Factsheets: Lung and Bronchus Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Available at http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html. Accessed 11/25/19.
  6. 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.
  7. Gazdar AF, Thun MJ. Lung cancer, smoke exposure, and sex. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25:469–471.
  8. My Cancer Genome. Accessed online on 8/11/16 at https://www.mycancergenome.org/.