lung cancer

Last edited 11/2021 and last reviewed 12/2022

Over 46,000 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK in 2015

  • estimated 89% of lung cancers are preventable, with 86% of these linked to smoking, 13% to occupational exposure, 9% to dietary factors and 7.8% to air pollution
    • lung cancer can be linked to more than one cause

  • in 2015 in the UK, over 35,000 people died from lung cancer
    • overall mortality rate from lung cancer has decreased by 9% over the last decade
    • however, while there has been a decrease of 19% in mortality rates in men, there has been an increase of 2% in women
      • linked to lifestyle factors such as smoking and is driven by an increased incidence of lung cancer in older women

  • in the UK, lung cancer is more common in people of European family origin than in people of African or Asian family origin. It is strongly linked to socioeconomic deprivation. There are many risk factors for lung cancer, including age, genetics, lifestyle (especially smoking) and occupation

Lung cancer is diagnosed and staged using a variety of tests, including chest X-rays, CT or positron emission tomography CT (PET-CT)

  • lung cancer samples are commonly acquired for diagnosis using bronchoscopy, endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) or a percutaneous procedure (guided by CT or ultrasound).

Lung cancer has 2 main types:

  • non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is more common and spreads more slowly
  • small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), which is rarer and spreads more quickly

Treatment depends on the type, size, position and stage of the cancer, and the person's health. Possible treatments include radiotherapy, systemic anti-cancer therapies, surgery, supportive care cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy and ablation

Survival (2):

  • 5 in 100 (5%) of people diagnosed with lung cancer in England and Wales survive their disease for ten years or more (2010-11)

  • a tenth (10%) of people diagnosed with lung cancer in England and Wales survive their disease for five years or more (2010-11)

  • around a third (32%) of people diagnosed with lung cancer in England and Wales survive their disease for one year or more (2010-11)

  • lung cancer survival is higher in women than men at one- and five-years but similar at ten-years

  • lung cancer survival in England is higher for people diagnosed aged under 40 years old (2009-2013)
    • almost half of people in England diagnosed with lung cancer aged 15-39 survive their disease for five years or more, compared with more than 5 in 100 people diagnosed aged 80 and over (2009-2013)

  • the Office for National Statistics 2019 state that the survival is 16.2% of people living beyond 5 years and 9.5% living beyond 10 years (4)

Smoking cessation after diagnosis materially improved overall and progression-free survival among current smokers with early-stage lung cancer (3)

  • prospective Russian cohort study found higher overall survival time among patients who quit smoking vs continued smoking (6.6vs4.8yrs, respectively; P=0.001), 5-year overall survival (60.6%vs48.6%; P=0.001) and progression-free survival (54.4%vs43.8%; P=0.004)