A Snapshot of Lung Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the primary cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the United States. The overall mortality rate for lung and bronchus cancers rose steadily through the 1980s, peaked in the early 1990s, and recently began a slow decline. Trends in lung cancer incidence and mortality rates have closely mirrored historical patterns of smoking prevalence, after accounting for a lag period. Because the prevalence of smoking peaked later in women than in men, incidence and mortality rates for men have dropped over the past two decades but only recently have begun to decrease for women. Mortality rates are highest among African-American males, followed by white males.
Although smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, lung cancer risk also is increased by exposure to secondhand smoke and environmental exposures such as radon and workplace toxins (e.g., asbestos, arsenic). The risk of lung cancer can be reduced by eliminating or reducing exposure to any of these risk factors. The National Lung Screening Trial has shown that screening current or former heavy smokers with low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) decreases their risk of dying from lung cancer. Standard treatments for lung cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, cryosurgery, and electrocautery.
It is estimated that approximately $12.1 billion1 is spent in the United States each year on lung cancer treatment.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Lung Cancer
- The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project is systematically identifying the major genomic changes involved in more than 20 cancers using state-of-the-art genomic analysis technologies. TCGA recently characterized the genomic and epigenomic alterations in 178 lung squamous cell carcinomas and identified a potential therapeutic target in the majority of tumors. [PubMed Abstract]
- NCI currently is supporting an extended follow-up of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, a large clinical trial that examined whether specific cancer-screening tests reduce deaths from these cancers. Results from the lung cancer component of the PLCO showed that regular chest X-rays (compared with no screening) did not reduce deaths from lung cancer.
- Environment and Genetics in Lung Cancer Etiology (EAGLE), a collaboration between scientists from the United States and Italy, aims to identify the genetic and environmental factors that influence both lung cancer and smoking and to elucidate determinants of successful therapy and long-term survival in patients with lung cancer.
- The Phase III Randomized Study of Sublobar Resection with or without Brachytherapy Versus Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy in High-Risk Patients with Stage I Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer is comparing the efficacy of stereotactic body radiation therapy to that of surgery with or without internal radiation therapy for patients with localized lung cancer and an elevated risk of recurrence.
- Smokefree TXT and QuitSTART App, components of NCI's Smokefree Teen initiative, are free services that helps teens who are trying to quit smoking.
- Seven lung-cancer-specific Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs) are characterizing the molecular heterogeneity of lung cancer, investigating chemopreventive agents, and pursuing new therapies.
Selected Advances in Lung Cancer Research
- Researchers have identified regions in the genome that may be linked to lung cancer risk in Asian women who have never smoked. Published November 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- Metabolites of a bioactive component of ginger trigger apoptosis in lung and colon cancer cells. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- A new model for predicting which current or former smokers would benefit from lung cancer screening incorporates additional risk factors and is more sensitive than criteria used in the National Lung Screening Trial, offering the possibility of making lung cancer screening more cost-effective. Published February 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- Two inhibitors of Bcl-XL, an anti-apoptosis protein that is often overexpressed in lung cancer cells, selectively kill lung cancer cells but not normal human bronchial epithelial cells, suggesting therapeutic potential. Published July 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to lung cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.
Trends in NCI Funding for Lung Cancer Research
The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment2 in lung cancer research increased from $247.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $314.6 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $69.3 million in lung cancer research in FY 2009 and FY 2010 using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).3
Additional Resources for Lung Cancer
- What You Need To Know About™ Lung Cancer
Describes treatment options, types of cancer doctors, second opinion, follow-up care, and sources of support for someone recently diagnosed with lung cancer.
- Lung Cancer Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about lung cancer.
- Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting Fact Sheet
A fact sheet that lists some of the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke and describes the health problems caused by smoking and the benefits of quitting.
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.
- Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of small cell lung cancer.
- Clinical Trials for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
- Clinical Trials for Small Cell Lung Cancer
- 1 Cancer Trends Progress Report, in 2010 dollars.
- 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
- 3 For more information regarding ARRA funding at NCI, see Recovery Act Funding at NCI.