9 Numbers to Know for Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Statistics that highlight the impact of lung cancer in the United States.

Lung cancer accounts for over 20 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, and it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both males and females.

In recognition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, here is a look at the basics of lung cancer, as well as key statistics that illustrate the wide-reaching impact of this disease.

What is lung cancer?

In the simplest terms, cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal or damaged cells. Cancers are named based on where this uncontrolled growth begins inside the body. Lung cancer is cancer that begins in the tissues of the lungs.

Lung cancer falls into two broad categories—small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer:

  • Between 80 to 85 percent of all lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The three most common subtypes of NSCLC are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
  • Between 10 and 15 percent of lung cancers are small cell lung cancer (SCLC). There are two main types—small cell carcinoma (also called oat cell cancer) and combined small cell carcinoma. SCLCs tend to grow quickly and metastasize aggressively, forming large tumors that spread to other areas of the body.

These two categories of lung cancer are named for the appearance of the cancer cells when viewed with a microscope—NSCLC cells appear larger, and SCLC cells appear smaller. Beyond appearance, there are many important differences between NSCLC and SCLC. There are also many important differences between the subtypes within each category.

There are other lung cancers that are less common—such as lung carcinoid tumors and mesothelioma—as well as cancers that begin in other areas of the body but spread to the lungs.

Lung cancer by the numbers

In the U.S., it’s estimated that 236,740 people will be diagnosed with some type of lung cancer during 2022. Lung cancer is less common than skin cancer, female breast cancer, and prostate cancer, but it accounts for more cancer deaths. Here are some additional numbers that further illustrate the impact of lung cancer:

  • 21.4 percent. Estimated percentage of all cancer deaths that are attributable to lung cancer.
  • 130,180. Estimated number of lung cancer deaths for 2022 for both males and females. This number has been decreasing year over year.
  • 70 years. The average age of a person diagnosed with lung cancer. A person’s risk of having lung cancer increases with age, with most cases diagnosed in people over the age of 65. Lung cancer is rare among people under the age of 45—but it does happen.
  • 80 to 90 percent. Percentage of lung cancer deaths that are attributable to cigarette smoking. Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. This includes cigarettes, as well as cigars, pipes, and secondhand smoke. Tobacco use also increases the risk of many other types of cancer and many other diseases.
  • 7,000. Number of chemicals in a burning cigarette. At least 69 are known carcinogens, substances that cause cancer.
  • 21 percent. Black Americans are 21 percent less likely to survive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis. This is one of several statistics that illustrate the disparities that impact Black Americans with lung cancer. Black Americans are also 18 percent less likely to be diagnosed early and 9 percent more likely not to receive treatment.

Should you get screened for lung cancer?

Early detection of lung cancer can lead to better treatment outcomes. Lung cancer is screened with an imaging test called a low-dose computed tomography scan, or CT scan.

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a person should be screened for lung cancer:

  • If they are between the ages of 50 and 80 years.
  • If they currently smoke (or have smoked in the past 15 years).
  • If they have a 20-year “pack history” (meaning they have averaged the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years).

If you have questions about your risk of lung cancer or the health of your lungs, your best source of information will be a healthcare provider.

Article sources open article sources

World Health Organization. Cancer.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An Update on Cancer Deaths in the United States.
National Cancer Institute. What is Cancer?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Lung Cancer?
American Cancer Society. What is Lung Cancer?
National Cancer Institute. Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ)–Patient Version.
Cleveland Clinic. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Lung Cancer Types.
American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Lung Cancer.
National Cancer Institute. Common Cancer Types.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Skin Cancer.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?
American Lung Association. What's in a Cigarette?
American Lung Association. Racial and Ethnic Disparities.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Who Should Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

Featured Content


What Can I Expect With Immunotherapy?

Learn how immunotherapy is administered and what the side effects are.

14 Questions to Ask When Starting Immunotherapy for NSCLC

Learn more about your treatment options for NSCLC by asking your healthcare provider the right questions.

What's the Difference Between Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy?

Learn the differences between two major therapies and how they're being combined to advance treatment.

Lung Cancer and the Risk of Serious Infection

Learn why lung cancer increases your risk of infections—and how to prevent infections from happening.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and Pneumonitis

What patients and caregivers need to know about inflammation in the lungs caused by certain cancer treatments.