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Lung Cancer Research Highlights

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women
in the United States. Our research program has played a role in many of the prevention, screening, and treatment advances that save lives from lung cancer today. And, we continue to fund research to help save even more lives in the future. 


See If the Quit2Heal Clinical Trial Is for You

If you smoke and have been diagnosed with cancer in the last 24 months, you may be eligible to participate in a research study that will test a smartphone app to help you quit smoking. 

Learn more at: Quit2Heal.org

Supporting Research for Non-Tobacco Related Cancers

Smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer, but about 20% of people who die from lung cancer have never smoked or used any other forms of tobacco. In fact, some lung cancers occur in people without any known risk factors.

Since the early 1990s, the American Cancer Society has invested over $134 million in lung cancer research, including over $29 million for research specific to lung cancer not associated with smoking. 

Most People with Lung Cancer Smoked

Smoking cigarettes is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer and causes about 80% of deaths from the disease. But people who don’t smoke can develop lung cancer too. A new study found that out of 100 people in the United States who were recently diagnosed with lung cancer, about 12 of them (12%) had never smoked cigarettes. The study was co-led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). The results were published in a research letter in JAMA Oncology.

See the full highlight about smoking and lung cancer statistics. 

Spotlight on ACS Research Publications

The American Cancer Society (ACS) employs a staff of full-time researchers and funds scientists across the United States who relentlessly search for answers to help us better understand cancer, including lung cancer. Here are some highlights of their work.

Stopping Smoking Earlier in Life Reduces More Risks

“Our results clearly show harms from smoking and health benefits from quitting smoking among men and women of all racial ethnic groups and all ages, especially younger age groups.” —Farhad Islami, MD, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Islami's published study.

 

Mini Mouse Lung Organoids Offer New Lab Model for Research

“We know very little about the early events that transform a normal lung cell into a cancer cell. In this study, we were able to use tumor samples from people who had been diagnosed with an early stage of lung cancer to show that our organoids truly mimic what happens in patients at the very early stages. We can see changes in the organoids within 7 days that can take months to see in lab mice and even longer, probably years, in patients.”—Carla Kim, PhD

 

See the highlight about Dr. Kim's published study.

 

Improving Quality of Life for Lung Cancer Survivors

“A primary goal of my research is to develop and evaluate the impact of supportive care interventions that are tailored to the needs of patients with cancer and their caregivers throughout their illness trajectory.

“I’m using innovative delivery modalities, including mobile apps, video tools, and telehealth, to make supportive care interventions accessible outside of the cancer clinic for patients and their caregivers.

“In this pilot study with my Massachusetts General Hospital colleagues, we tested the feasibility and acceptability of virtual visits for patients with lung cancer to help achieve their best possible quality of life  after their treatments had ended.” —Jennifer Temel, MD

See the highlight about Dr. Temel’s published study.

 

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Lung Cancer Grants

74 Grants with $27 Million of Funding as of August 1, 2021


We Fund Cancer Researchers Across the US

The American Cancer Society funds scientists who conduct research about cancer at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research projects proposals to fund. 

Lung Cancer Statistics in Brief

Outlook for Lung Cancer Is More Promising Than Ever Before

As the Senior Scientific Director of Surveillance Research at the American Cancer Society (ACS), Rebecca Siegel, MPH, analyzes data on lung cancer each year as part of the Cancer Facts & Figures report. 

In our news story about the report, we said:

The outlook is more promising than ever for lung cancer at all stages of disease. In recent years, more people with lung cancer are being diagnosed when the cancer is at an early stage and living longer as a result.

The rate of localized-stage disease diagnosis increased by 4.5% yearly from 2014 to 2018, while there were steep declines in advanced disease diagnoses. The result was an overall increase in 3-year survival rates. In 2004, 21 out of 100 people diagnosed with lung cancer were living 3 years after their diagnosis. By 2018, that number had risen to 31 out of 100 people.

Increased survival is also largely due to improvements in:

“Improved lung cancer outcomes may also reflect increased access to care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” says Siegel, lead author of Cancer Statistics, 2022. “Plus, the ACS and USPSTF first recommended screening for lung cancer in 2013, so screening — even with low rates — still could have helped increase the diagnosis of localized-stage disease,” she says.

Key lung cancer statistics in the US include: 

Estimated New Cases and Deaths

  • A estimated 236,740 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2022. 
  • An estimated 130,180 people will die from lung cancer in 2022. That's more than for any other type of cancer—more than breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers combined. Lung cancer causes 2.5 times more deaths than colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of death from cancer in the US.

Trends in Incidence and Mortality

  • From 2009 to 2018, the rates of new lung cancer cases dropped almost 3% a year in men and almost 1.5% a year in women. 
  • Differences between men and women reflect historical patterns of tobacco use. Women began smoking in large numbers many years later than men, and women were slower to quit. However, smoking patterns do not appear to explain the higher lung cancer rates being reported in women compared with men born around the 1960s.
  • Trends in cancer death rates are the best measure of progress against cancer. Lung cancer death rates declined by 56% since 1990 in men and 32% since 2002 in women.
  • Improvements in lung cancer mortality are due to declines in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment, mostly for non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC).

Variation by State of Residence

  • Compared to other types of cancer, lung cancer has the most striking variation by state. 
  • In Kentucky, the death rate from lung cancer is more than 3 times higher than in Utah. This difference reflects the historically much higher prevalence of smoking in Kentucky. During 2019, 1 in 4 adult residents of Kentucky were current smokers, compared with 1 in 10 adult residents of Utah. 
  • State tobacco control policies can have a large impact on smoking rates.

Related to Smoking

  • Anyone can get lung cancer. Yet people who smoke are about 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer than people who don't smoke, and about 80% of deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking. Both the amount and how long someone smokes increase risk of dying from lung cancer.
  • People who quit smoking, regardless of age, increase their longevity. Those who quit by age 30 live an average of 10 years longer than if they had continued to smoke.

Not Related to Smoking

  • Second-hand smoke causes almost 3% of new cases of lung cancer and is expected to cause about 3% of deaths from it in 2022.
  • After smoking, the next leading cause of lung cancer is exposure to radon gas, which is released from soil and can build up indoors.
  • Nonsmoking-related deaths from lung cancer would rank as the 8th leading cause of death from cancer if they were classified separately.


Find more statistics about lung cancer on the Cancer Statistics Center:

  • Estimated new cases and deaths by state
  • Historical trends in incidence rates 
  • Historical trends in death rates 
  • 5-year survival rates 

Use the analysis tool in the drop-down menu to see any of these statistics in comparison to other types of cancer.