Lung Cancer Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the lungs. Each year, lung cancer kills more people in the United States than any other type of cancer. If averaged out over all of 2020, around 627 people in the United States were diagnosed every day.

This article discusses some key statistics related to lung cancer, including who lung cancer affects, where it most often occurs (geographically), and the difference that screening and early detection can make.

Doctor and patient looking at X-ray in medical office

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Lung Cancer Overview

Cancer is out-of-control, disordered growth of the tiny cells that make up your body. When such a growth first starts in the cells of your lungs, it is called lung cancer.

Most kinds of lung cancer can be divided into two broad categories, based on the way the cells look under the microscope: small cell cancer and non-small cell cancer.

About 80% of lung cancers are non-small cell cancer. Non-small cell cancer is further divided into:

  • Adenocarcinoma (40%–50% of cases)
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (around 30%)
  • Large cell carcinoma (around 15%)

These categories can start from different types of cells in your lungs. They have different risk factors and characteristics that can sometimes affect your symptoms, your prognosis, and your treatment options.

Lung Cancer ICD 10 Code

The International Classification of Disease (ICD) codes can be found on your patient paperwork, such as the billing that is 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 the cancer. For example, the code “C34.91” refers to a cancer of the right lung. The “C34” part should be the same for most kinds of lung cancer.

How Common Is Lung Cancer?

In the United States, lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed each year overall. For men, it is the second most common kind of cancer (behind prostate cancer). Similarly for women, only breast cancer is more common.

For every 100,000 people in the United States, about 54 are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. It’s estimated almost 229,000 people were diagnosed in 2020.

In the United States, the overall rates of lung cancer in men have been gradually declining since 1982. In women, rates did not start declining until the mid-2000s. This reflects cultural differences and changes in smoking, as smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer. Rates are declining because fewer people have started smoking and because some people have quit.

However, rates have increased in parts of the developing world, as smoking has become more common.

By State

Because smoking rates differ, rates of lung cancer vary around the country. As of 2018, Kentucky had the highest rate of people newly diagnosed with lung cancer each year, at around 83 per 100,000 people.

The following states also have particularly high rates:

  • Maine
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia
  • Ohio
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma

For every 100,000 people in these states, between 61 and 75 people are newly diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

By Ethnicity

The rates of lung cancer also vary somewhat by ethnicity. This might be because of socioeconomic factors, smoking rates in different groups, or other unidentified factors.

Rates of New Lung Cancers in Different Groups
Ethnic Group (Both Men and Women) Yearly New Diagnoses of Lung Cancer (Per 100,000 People)
White 55
Black 54
American Indian 37
Asian and Pacific Islander 33
Latinx 27
Adapted from the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), and National Cancer Institute

By Age and Gender

Lung cancer is more common in men than in women. For every 100,000 people in the United States, about 60 men are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. In contrast, only about 49 women receive this diagnosis.

Like many other cancers, the risk of lung cancer also increases with age, although it may decrease slightly in people over 85. (This is because cells naturally accumulate more mutations, or changes in a person’s genetic material, over time.)

For instance, in people younger than 35, lung cancer is extremely rare, but it gradually starts increasing each year. For someone 55–59 years old, their rate of lung cancer is 34 times higher than someone who is 35–39.

For someone 75–79 years old, their risk is 4 times higher than someone 55–59 and about 140 times greater than someone 35–39.

Causes of Lung Cancer and Risk Factors

Smoking is by far the most important factor that increases one’s chances of getting lung cancer. However, not all smokers get lung cancer, and some people with no risk factors do get lung cancer.

Some other risk factors are:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to the gas radon (a colorless, odorless gas found in soil that can be present in homes and other buildings)
  • Exposure to asbestos (minerals used in insulating materials used in building materials, flooring, and automobiles)
  • Previous lung damage, such as from repeated infections
  • Having certain genes

What Are 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 Untied 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 diagnosed with lung cancer die within one year.

These rates are worse in men compared to 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 availability of treatment 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

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that some people receive yearly screenings of their lungs with a type of imaging called low-dose CT (computed tomography).

Such screening can diagnose lung cancer at an earlier stage, when it is much easier to treat. That makes it more likely that a person will ultimately beat their disease.

Specifically, they recommend it for people 55 to 80 years of age who have a history of smoking a minimum of 20 packs per year and currently smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years. This is because these people have the highest risk of getting lung cancer. It’s estimated that if all such people were screened, we might be able to prevent 12,000 deaths from lung cancer every year.

Other people who have smoked a significant amount of time might want to talk with their healthcare provider about the possibility of such screening as well. Because this screening has certain drawbacks, most medical professional societies recommend that patients discuss this further with their doctor.

Summary

Lung cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer in the United States for both men and women. Rates are declining because fewer people are now smoking, which is the most common cause of lung cancer. However, lung cancer still causes more deaths than any other cancer type, partly because it is often identified after the cancer has already spread. Early screening and detection can help improve these numbers, as well as ongoing research efforts.

A Word From Verywell

It is scary to get a lung cancer diagnosis, and it can be even scarier when you see the statistics. However, lung cancer outcomes are getting better over time. Improving lifestyle factors, such as not smoking and reducing exposure to radon, asbestos, and secondhand smoke can help improve your prognosis.

There is an abundance of lung cancer research underway. In addition to regular treatment for lung cancer, some patients are able to try experimental medical treatment through clinical trials.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How likely am I to get lung cancer?

    Male smokers have about a 15% risk of getting lung cancer at some point in their lives, and female smokers have about an 11% chance. In contrast, men who have never smoked have about a 2% chance of eventually getting lung cancer, and women have about a 1% chance.

  • How is lung cancer treated?

    The main treatments for lung cancer are surgery and chemotherapy. Surgery makes sense for people whose disease hasn’t spread. For people with more advanced cancer, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are usually the treatment mainstays. Radiation treatment also makes sense for some people.

  • How can I lower my risk of lung cancer?

    Quitting smoking is the best way to lower your risk. Former smokers’ risk never returns to the lowered risk of someone who has never smoked. However, former smokers are still significantly less likely to get lung cancer compared to someone who never quit.

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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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