Key Statistics for Lung Cancer

Most lung cancer statistics include both small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In general, about 13% of all lung cancers are SCLC, and 84% are NSCLC.

How common is lung cancer?

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer). In men, prostate cancer is more common, while in women breast cancer is more common.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2020 are:

  • About 228,820 new cases of lung cancer (116,300 in men and 112,520 in women)
  • About 135,720 deaths from lung cancer (72,500 in men and 63,220 in women)

Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older; a very small number of people diagnosed are younger than 45. The average age of people when diagnosed is about 70.

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, making up almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

On a positive note, the number of new lung cancer cases continues to decrease, partly because people are quitting smoking. Also, the number of deaths from lung cancer continues to drop due to people stopping smoking and advances in early detection and treatment.

Lifetime chance of getting lung cancer

Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 15; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 17. These numbers include both smokers and non-smokers. For smokers the risk is much higher, while for non-smokers the risk is lower.

  • Black men are about 15% more likely to develop lung cancer than white men. The rate is about 14% lower in Black women than in white women.
  • Black and white women have lower rates than men, but the gap is closing. The lung cancer rate has been dropping among men over the past few decades, but only for about the last decade in women.
  • Despite their overall risk of lung cancer being higher, Black men are less likely to develop SCLC than are white men. 

Statistics on survival in people with lung cancer vary depending on the stage (extent) of the cancer when it is diagnosed. For survival statistics based on the stage of the cancer, see Lung Cancer Survival Rates.

Despite the very serious prognosis (outlook) of lung cancer, some people with earlier-stage cancers are cured.

Visit the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics Center for more key statistics.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society. Facts & Figures 2020. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2020.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2019.

DeSantis CE, Miller KD, Sauer AG, Jemal A, Siegel RL. Cancer statistics for African Americans, 2019. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2019; 69:211-233.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2016, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2016/, based on November 2018 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2019.

SEER Cancer Stat Facts: Lung and bronchus cancer.  National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html.  Accessed on May 15, 2019.

References

American Cancer Society. Facts & Figures 2020. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2020.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2019.

DeSantis CE, Miller KD, Sauer AG, Jemal A, Siegel RL. Cancer statistics for African Americans, 2019. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2019; 69:211-233.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2016, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2016/, based on November 2018 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2019.

SEER Cancer Stat Facts: Lung and bronchus cancer.  National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html.  Accessed on May 15, 2019.

Last Medical Review: October 1, 2019 Last Revised: January 8, 2020

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