In 2010, Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chose the 6 original health priorities that he would call “winnable battles.” Tobacco use was one of them. As reported in the CDC’s tobacco overview materials, tobacco use is responsible for 443,000 deaths in the United States each year, including 128,900 deaths attributed to lung cancer.1 Here we will consider some specific lung cancer statistics.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 224,210 new cases of lung cancer in the United States in 2014.2
Among risk factors for developing lung cancer, cigarette smoking is number 1. Of the more than 7000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 70 are known carcinogens, and smoking causes more than 90% of lung cancers in the United States. The second leading cause is exposure to radon gas, which causes about 20,000 cases of lung cancer
Although lung cancer accounts for only 14% of all new cancer diagnoses, it is responsible for 27% of all cancer deaths, more than colorectal, breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers combined. It is the leading cause of cancer death among all ethnicities regardless of gender, and is responsible for almost 2 times as many deaths in women as breast cancer and almost 3 times as many deaths in men as prostate
Of the 2 major types of lung cancer, non–small cell lung cancer is diagnosed in 7 of 8 lung cancer patients, and small cell lung cancer is found in 1 of 8 patients.5
In the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, covering the years 1975-2010, the National Cancer Institute included a special feature on comorbidities among cancer patients. Reporting on patients with lung, colorectal, breast (female), and prostate cancer, who were age 66 years and older and were Medicare beneficiaries, data show that 30% had at least 1 comorbidity. However, among those with lung cancer, at least 1 comorbidity was found in 52.9% of patients. Diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and cerebrovascular disease were the most common comorbidities.6