Key Statistics for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Most lung cancer statistics include both small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In general, SCLC accounts for about 10% to 15% of all lung cancers.

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). Prostate cancer is more common in men, while breast cancer is more common in women. About 14% of all new cancers are lung cancers.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer (including both small cell and non-small cell) in the United States for 2018 are:

  • About 234,030 new cases of lung cancer (121,680 in men and 112,350 in women)
  • About 154,050 deaths from lung cancer (83,550 in men and 70,500 in women)

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than from colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older, while a very small number of people diagnosed are younger than 45. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 70.

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. Smoking can greatly affect these lifetime risks. For smokers the risk is much higher, while for non-smokers the risk is lower.

  • Black men are about 20% more likely to develop lung cancer (including all types) than are white men. The rate is about 10% lower in black women than in white women.
  • Women (black and white) have lower rates than men, but the gap is closing. This is because 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 about 15% less likely to develop SCLC than are white men, and the risk is about 30% lower in black women than in white women.

Statistics on survival in people with SCLC vary depending on the stage (extent) of the cancer when it is diagnosed. For survival statistics by stage, see Small Cell Lung Cancer Survival Rates, By Stage.

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 master's-prepared 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 2018. American Cancer Society. Atlanta, Ga. 2018.

Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Bishop K, Kosary CL, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2014, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD,, based on November 2016 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2017.

 Cancer Stat Facts: Lung and bronchus cancer, 2010-2014.  National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD. Accessed on January 5, 2018.

Last Medical Review: February 22, 2016 Last Revised: January 4, 2018

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