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Lung Cancer: America’s #1 Cancer Killer
Website Manager
By Website Manager
Published on June 25, 2012
Lung cancer is the U.S.’s top cancer killer, claiming approximately 160,000 lives per year. It is a devastating disease that can afflict anyone, regardless of smoking history, gender, or ethnicity.

Lung cancer is the U.S.’s top cancer killer, claiming approximately 160,000 lives per year. It is a devastating disease that can afflict anyone, regardless of smoking history, gender, or ethnicity.
While colon, breast, and prostate cancer all have reliable early detection tests, lung cancer does not. Currently, only 16% of people diagnosed with lung cancer survive five years post-diagnosis, a percentage significantly lower than that for each of these other cancers. And with early detection, there is hope.

With the support of our donors, LUNGevity funds research to develop early detection methods and targeted therapies for lung cancer.

The Statistics
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
  • Lung cancer impacts one in 14 Americans and kills more than breast, prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers combined.
  • Lung cancer kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer, and more than three times as many men as prostate cancer.
  • About 55% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers.
  • Lung cancer accounts for 14% of all new cancer diagnoses but 28% of all cancer deaths.
Lung Cancer FAQs

Is lung cancer just a man’s disease?

No. Lung cancer appears in both men and women. Lung cancer accounts for more than 1 in 4 cancer deaths among women, killing more women each year than breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers combined.

I thought that women had to worry about breast cancer, not lung cancer.

Of course, getting regular mammograms and following other early detection strategies for breast cancer is very important. However, lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women. There is no established protocol for the early detection of lung cancer. Approximately 33,000 more women died of lung cancer than breast cancer in 2011.

Does quitting smoking or never smoking cure lung cancer?
No. Quitting smoking (or never starting) is important for your overall health and the health of your lungs, but will not prevent you from getting lung cancer. About 55% of those newly diagnosed with lung cancer are former smokers or people who have never smoked.

Research shows that even 30 years after quitting smoking, there is still an elevated risk of getting lung cancer. In addition, each year, as many as 30,000 people who have never smoked are diagnosed with it.

Other than smoking, what else causes lung cancer?

There are a number of risk factors, some beyond our control. These include family history as well as exposure to carcinogens in the environment, such as secondhand smoke, radon, asbestos, arsenic, silica, and chromium. While limiting exposure to these substances is a good idea, these dangers can be unseen or unavoidable. 

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer. The Surgeon General and EPA recommend testing your home to find out how much radon you might be breathing. For information on radon testing, and what to do if radon is found, contact the NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection at 1-800-648-0394 or visit
How do I know if I have lung cancer?

In its early stages, lung cancer is often symptomless and therefore goes undetected. If you do have symptoms, they can include a persistent cough, a new cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness, recurrent pneumonia, and bronchitis, fatigue, and weight loss. Currently, there is no cost-effective, widely-available protocol for screening for lung cancer, so it is unlikely that you will discover the cancer in its early stages. Research is underway to use different technologies and tools to develop a method for reliable and early lung cancer detection.

Is lung cancer curable?

The key to curing lung cancer is detecting it early. Unfortunately, without a reliable early detection protocol, this is very difficult to do. Currently, only 15% of lung cancer diagnoses happen during the earliest and most curable stage of the disease, making lung cancer one of the most deadly cancers. The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is 89%, for colorectal cancers 64%, for prostate cancer 99%. The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 16%.

Is there hope with early detection?

People whose lung cancer is found early have a 52% five-year survival rate. That’s why there is hope with early detection. The National Lung Screening Trial, a research study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, showed a 20% reduction in mortality with early detection. Now we have to find a way to get early detection for lung cancer practically implemented, and in a way that includes former smokers and those who have never smoked — the majority of people diagnosed with lung cancer today.

The LUNGevity Foundation also invests in more effective treatment research, because while a 52%  5-year survival rate is much better than 16%, it is not nearly high enough. 

This article reprinted with permission from the LUNGevity Foundation. For more information, please visit

As seen in Camden County Woman and Burlington County Woman