Lung Cancer Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Lung and bronchus cancer kills 350 people per day

Many people know someone who has had lung cancer. It’s a frightening cancer diagnosis because, although it is so common, it's also deadly. 

While there are multiple types, lung cancer as a whole was the second most diagnosed cancer in 2020. It was estimated that in 2022 there would be close to 237,000 new lung cancer cases. And about 6% of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives.

Thanks to successful anti-smoking campaigns, the rate of new lung cancer diagnoses has been falling on average 2.1% per year. Death rates also fell about 3.8% per year from 2010 to 2019.

This article will highlight important facts and statistics you should know about lung and bronchus cancer.

A healthcare provider with a stethoscope on a person's back (Lung Cancer Statistics)

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

Lung Cancer Overview

Lung and bronchus cancer is a disease caused by an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lungs called a tumor. The tumor can impact your breathing, and the cancerous cells can spread to other tissues and organs. It’s one of the more deadly cancers and also one of the most common. 

Lung Cancer ICD-10 Code

The International Classification of Disease (ICD) codes can be found on your patient paperwork, such as the billing submitted to insurance. Each disease is given a specific ICD code. The 10th version of the code, the one currently in use, is known as ICD-10.

It can be helpful to know your ICD code for tracking your patient paperwork and making sure you get properly reimbursed.

Lung cancer ICD-10 codes can vary a little based on the specific characteristics of cancer. For example, the code “C34.91” refers to cancer of the right lung. The “C34” part should be the same for most kinds of lung cancer.

How Common Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimated there would be 236,740 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in 2022. For men, it is the second most common kind of cancer (behind prostate cancer). Similarly, for women, only breast cancer is more common.

Approximately 1 in 16 people (6%) in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives. In 2019, there were 576,924 people living with lung and bronchus cancer in the U.S.

It was predicted that about 130,180 people with lung cancer would die in 2022. Lung cancer makes up 12.3% of all new cancer cases but 21.4% of cancer deaths. Lung cancer kills more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined each year. Lung cancer kills 350 people per day.

Lung Cancer by Ethnicity and Gender

Lung cancer closely reflects tobacco use trends. Lung and bronchus cancer is more common in men than women. About 1 in 15 men and 1 in 17 women will eventually develop lung cancer.

This gender dichotomy is strong in Black Americans. Black men have the highest lung cancer rates—about 8% are more likely to develop lung cancer than White men. Black women, on the other hand, are almost 9% less likely to develop lung cancer than White women.

Rate of Lung and Bronchus Cancer in Men by Race/Ethnicity
Ethnicity New Cases Deaths
All Races 65.8 44.5
Non-Hispanic White 69.0 47.0
Non-Hispanic Black 77.4 54.0
Asian/Pacific Islander 42.5 26.9
American Indian/Alaska Native 68.5 42.3
Hispanic 36.1 22.1
New cases and deaths per 100,000 people. Data are from the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) database averaged over the years 2015–2019.
Lung and Bronchus Cancer in Women by Ethnicity
Ethnicity New Cases Deaths
All Races 50.8 30.7
Non-Hispanic White 56.0 34.2
Non-Hispanic Black 47.2 29.2
Asian/Pacific Islander 28.0 15.9
American Indian/Alaska Native 57.7 31.0
Hispanic 24.2 11.8
New cases and deaths per 100,000 people. Data from NCI SEER database averaged over the years 2015–2019.

Lung Cancer by Age

Cancer generally is more prevalent in older people than younger. This age-specificity is especially true for lung and bronchus cancer. Your risk of developing cancer due to smoking increases with how many pack-years a person has smoked. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are over 65.

Pack-years are the number of years of smoking a pack a day. If you smoke half a pack a day for five years, you have 2.5 pack years. But if you smoke 1.5 packs a day for five years, that’s 7.5 pack-years. 

The longer a smoker lives, the longer they’ve likely smoked and the more pack years they’ve accumulated. Smoking was also more common decades ago. Cancers are just generally more common the older a patient gets. Cells accumulate more cancer-causing genetic mutations, and the body’s defense systems deteriorate.

Lung and Bronchus Cancer Deaths by Age
New Cases Deaths
Under 20 0% 0% 
20–34 0.2% 0.1%
35–44 0.9% 0.6%
45–54 5.6% 4.9%
55–64 22.1% 20.2%
65–74 34.9% 32.5%
75–84 26.8% 28.7%
Over 84 9.4% 13.1%
The table shows how many of the new cases and deaths from lung and bronchus cancer fall into each age group. Data are from NCI SEER database averaged over the years 2015–2019.

Causes of Lung Cancer and Risk Factors

While most cancers don’t have one clear cause, there is an apparent reason why most people get lung cancer—tobacco use. About 81% of lung cancer deaths are due to smoking.

Causes of lung cancer include:

  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Radon exposure (an odorless gas that can build up in basements)

Risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Chemical exposure (typically at work)
  • Radiation exposure (typically through medical treatments)
  • Other medical conditions, including various cancers
  • Genetics, including a family history of lung cancer

What Are the Mortality Rates for Lung Cancer?

Devastatingly, lung cancer kills more people than any other type of cancer in the United States. For every 100,000 people in the United States, about 35 die from lung cancer each year.

What Are Survival Rates?

Survival rates, the percentage of people who survive a disease for a certain period of time, can be compared in a number of different ways. It is most commonly assessed by comparing how many people live five years beyond their diagnosis, called a five-year relative survival rate.

In the United States, about 23% of people diagnosed with lung cancer have not died of it within five years of their diagnosis. That’s sometimes called the five-year relative survival. In other words, about 77% die from lung cancer within five years.

Many of those deaths occur relatively soon after diagnosis. More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of diagnosis.

These rates are worse in men than women: 81% of men die within five years, and 73% of women do. Scientists aren’t sure why this is the case, but it might have to do with exposure to carcinogens during smoking, the effect of different hormones, or other factors.

Five-Year Survival Rate by Ethnicity

When grouped into different ethnicities, the following are roughly the five-year survival rates:

  • White: 23%
  • Black: 21%
  • Other races: 29%

These differences might be due to many factors, like the availability of treatment and how often the cancer is found at a less advanced stage.

Not surprisingly, younger people have an advantage when it comes to survival. In people under 45, survival rates are close to 39% (at five years). In people 45–74, five-year survival rates are about 24%–26%. For people 75 or older, this drops to 19%.

Survival rates also vary based on how much the cancer has spread in the body when you are diagnosed. For people whose cancer hasn’t left the lung, survival rates are higher. More than 50% might be alive five years after diagnosis.

People with non-small cell lung cancer tend to have slightly better rates of survival compared to those with small cell lung cancer. However, the amount of spread through the body is a much more important factor. For example, the following are some five-year rates of survival:

Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Type and location
Lung Cancer Type and Location  5-Year Survival Rate
Small cell cancer only in the lung  27% 
Non-small cell cancer only in the lung  63% 
Small cell cancer widely spread  3% 
Non-small cell cancer widely spread  7% 
Adapted from the American Cancer Society

Unfortunately, lung cancer has often already spread quite a bit throughout the lung or even out to the rest of the body before it is diagnosed. That is partly why people with lung cancer often don’t do as well as people with many other kinds of cancer.

The survival rate in lung cancer has improved a bit. For instance, in 1975, only about 11% of people had survived their disease five years after diagnosis (compared to 23% today). There still is a long way to go.

Screening and Early Detection of Lung Cancer

Screenings for lung cancer are relatively new and are only relevant for people at high risk of lung cancer. Those who have a higher prevalence of developing the disease include people between 50 and 80 years old who meet both of the following criteria:

  • A 20-pack year smoking history
  • Current smokers or have quit in the past 15 years

Healthcare providers screen for lung cancer using an imaging technique called a computed tomography (CT) scan that uses a low dose of radiation to scan the lungs for signs of cancer.

People at high risk get scanned every year to look for new changes in the lungs. These changes in the lungs don’t always mean cancer. Studies found the vast majority (94% to 98.5%) of these nodules are not cancerous. These studies found screening can help detect cancer at an earlier stage, when it is more treatable.

The lives saved by finding these cancers early for the high-risk, older age groups with a higher prevalence of developing lung and bronchus cancer outweigh the negatives of false positives (finding something that turns out not to be cancer) and the potential dangers of radiation from screenings.

The National Lung Screening Trial found that lung cancer screening of 1,000 high-risk individuals can prevent five deaths, including three from lung cancer.


Lung cancer is a prevalent and very deadly disease. It was determined that in 2022 around 236,740 new cases of lung and bronchus cancer would be diagnosed, and about 130,180 people with lung cancer would die. More than 500,000 people live with lung and bronchus cancer in the  United States.

From 2010 to 2019, new lung cancer diagnoses dropped by 2.1% each year, and death rates decreased by 3.8% yearly.

The leading cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoking. This cancer is more common in men, especially Black men. New treatments, early detection, and anti-smoking campaigns have steadily improved both case numbers and death rates for lung cancer. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is lung cancer always deadly?

    Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, with only 22.9% of people with lung cancer surviving for five years after being diagnosed. But the earlier the cancer is found, the better a person’s prognosis.

  • What causes lung cancer?

    While most cancers don’t have one clear cause, tobacco use is the number one reason most people get lung cancer. Around 81% of lung cancer deaths are due to smoking.

  • What are some early signs of lung cancer?

    Early signs of lung cancer include: 

    • Persistent cough
    • Chest pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Unintentional weight loss
    • Hoarseness or wheezing
    • Coughing up blood

    Many diseases can cause these symptoms, but if you have them and you’re older and at high risk for lung cancer, talk to your healthcare provider.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh is a Connecticut-based science writer and editor with over ten years of experience under her belt. She’s previously worked and written for WIRED Science, The Scientist, Discover Magazine, LiveScience, and Business Insider.