What's the Average Age for Being Diagnosed With Lung Cancer?

The average age of diagnosis of lung cancer in the United States is 70 years old. Most cases of lung cancer are diagnosed when people are older and when the cancer is at a more advanced stage.

According to data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 35% of new lung cancer cases are diagnosed in people between the ages of 65 and 74. The median (middle point) age at diagnosis is 71.

Average Age vs. Median Age

Researchers often use the "median" instead of the "average" (also called the "mean") when they talk about cancer age statistics.

  • The average (mean) age is all the ages added together and divided by the number of people in the group. It takes "extremes" at either end of the scale into account (for example, very young or old ages that are considered "outliers.").
  • The median age is the "midpoint" between all the ages in a group—the point at which half of the people are younger and half are older. Unlike the average, it is not affected by those "extremes."

This article will go over what you should know about the average age for a lung cancer diagnosis, including how factors like a person's biological sex and the type and stage of their cancer affect a lung cancer diagnosis.

Doctor with radiological chest x-ray film for medical diagnosis on patient's health on asthma, lung disease and bone cancer illness
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Lung Cancer Diagnosis: Types and Age

There are different types of lung cancer, but overall, the average age for a diagnosis is the same—around 70 years old.

Age and Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is usually found when a person is older because it often does not cause symptoms until it is at a more advanced stage. However, screening for lung cancer for high-risk people can help find and treat it sooner.

The two main types are small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Most cases of lung cancer in the U.S. are NSCLC—about 82% of all diagnoses. About 14% of people diagnosed with lung cancer have SCLC.

Lung Cancer Diagnosis: Age in Women vs. Men

Research shows the median age for a lung cancer diagnosis is slightly different for men and women.

Women tend to develop lung cancer younger than men—about two years earlier. Studies have shown that women are disproportionately affected by lung cancer before age 50.

Between the ages of 30 and 54, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with lung cancer, partly because they tend to start having symptoms sooner.

Lung Cancer Diagnoses: All Age Groups

The risk of lung cancer increases with age and peaks at around age 75. While it gradually decreases from there, that's partly because an older person will often die of causes other than lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Diagnosis Under Age 40

According to the American Cancer Society, most people diagnosed with lung cancer are at least 65 years old. It's much less common for people younger than age 45 to be diagnosed with lung cancer.

While older adults make up most of the newly diagnosed lung cancer cases, research shows the rate of lung cancer in young adults is increasing. Moreover, the increase is not always related to known risk factors like smoking.

One study on 8,734 young people with lung cancer found that over 70% were non-smokers, and roughly half had never smoked a cigarette.

Genetics is also believed to contribute to the risk of lung cancer. As many as 59% of young adults who get lung cancer are found to have a genetic mutation associated with the disease (like EGFR mutations, ROS1 rearrangements, and ALK rearrangements).

Younger people with lung cancer may live longer than older adults—even if they are diagnosed with advanced cancer. Research suggests that the five-year survival rate for young adults with all stages of lung cancer is 54%. That's compared to the five-year survival rate of all people with lung cancer, which is 16%.

Support for Younger Lung Cancer Patients

The Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation is dedicated to helping young people with the health and social concerns related to a lung cancer diagnosis.

Lung Cancer Diagnosis Over Age 70

It's often assumed that people who are diagnosed with lung cancer when they're older than age 70 cannot go through aggressive treatments and will do worse than younger people.

While it's true that most lung cancer-related deaths occur later in life, age alone cannot predict how well a person will respond to treatment for lung cancer.

According to the NIH, most lung cancer deaths—about 32%—occur in people between the ages of 65 and 74. The median age at death from lung cancer is 74.

When choosing the best lung cancer therapy for a patient, providers also take other factors into account including:

Research has shown that adults with lung cancer over age 80 with a good performance status can tolerate and respond to treatment as well as younger people. That means they might be able to have newer immunotherapeutic drugs and targeted therapies.

People over age 70 with lung cancer do not necessarily need to be treated differently than a younger person with the same type and stage of lung cancer. That said, some older people with cancer may have other health factors, like frailty, that do need to be considered.


Lung cancer is mostly diagnosed in older people—usually at around the age of 70. The older age at diagnosis means the cancer is often at a more advanced stage. The average age for a lung cancer diagnosis is slightly different between men and women, as women tend to have symptoms sooner which leads to them getting diagnosed a little earlier.

That said, older lung cancer patients don't necessarily need to be treated differently than younger patients based on their age alone—other factors, like their health and performance status, also affect their treatment outcomes.

A Word From Verywell

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, you might find yourself afraid and confused by lung cancer survival rates. Remember that these numbers are based on the average of all groups and do not take underlying health conditions or disease complications into account.

Whether you're 70 or 40 when you find out you have lung cancer, your provider will consider your needs as an individual patient when discussing treatment options with you. While your age is one factor, it's not the only thing that will influence how you will do with lung cancer treatment.

You don't necessarily need to be treated differently if you're diagnosed with lung cancer at an older age rather than at a younger age. If you are concerned about the care you're receiving after a lung cancer diagnosis, you may want to get a second opinion or ask for help from a patient advocate.

Being diagnosed with lung cancer at any age can be overwhelming. Make sure you're taking care of yourself, which means getting the nutrition, exercise, and support you need as you navigate through your cancer journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the average and median age for a lung cancer diagnosis?

    The average and median ages for lung cancer diagnosis in the U.S. are close—the average age is about 70 and the median age is 71.

  • Do women get lung cancer younger than men?

    Research has shown that women may get symptoms of lung cancer earlier than men, which can lead to an earlier diagnosis.

    Data has also shown that the cases of lung cancer in women have been going up in recent years, even in women who don't smoke.

  • Can you be too old for lung cancer treatment?

    A person's age is not the only factor that a healthcare provider considers when choosing a lung cancer treatment. An older patient who is in otherwise strong health and can go about their usual activities fairly well during treatment may do as well as a younger patient.

  • What's the average age to die from lung cancer?

    Most lung cancer deaths occur in people between the ages of 65 and 74. The median age for dying from lung cancer is 72.

13 Sources
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 Lynne Eldridge, MD
 Lynne Eldrige, MD, is a lung cancer physician, patient advocate, and award-winning author of "Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time."