10 Frightening Lung-Cancer Statistics

There’s arguably no scarier six-letter word than “cancer.” As the U.S. population has grown, so has the prevalence of cancer diagnoses… and deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., contributing to nearly 596,000 deaths in 2016. By sometime next decade, it’s expected to surpass heart disease and become America’s No. 1 killer.

But not all cancers are alike. For example, the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) annual report, “Cancer Facts and Figures 2017,” shows that five-year survival rates in prostate cancer and female breast cancer, two of the most commonly diagnosed cancer types, have risen to 99% and 91%, respectively, between 2006 to 2012. Five-year survival rates were just 75% for female breast cancer and 68% for prostate cancer between 1975 and 1977. Improvements in medicines to treat these diseases, along with patient and physician education, have gone a long way.

At the other end of the spectrum is the deadliest cancer of them all in terms of sheer numbers: lung cancer. Below are 10 frightening statistics that describe why lung cancer is possibly the most feared of all cancer types.

  1. Approximately 222,500 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017, according to the ACS. This includes almost 117,000 men and more than 105,000 women. It’s the second-most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. behind only female breast cancer and the most commonly diagnosed cancer type in the world.
  2. The ACS estimates that 155,870 people will die from lung cancer in 2017, which is more than three times higher than the next-deadliest cancer type, colon cancer, which is expected to claim 50,260 lives this year. It’s also the deadliest cancer, as a whole, across the globe.
  3. Just 19% of those diagnosed with lung or bronchus cancer will live five or more years as of 2006-2012. That’s just a 7 percentage-point improvement over more than three decades. More than half of those diagnosed with lung cancer pass away within a year.
  4. The average age at diagnoses is 70. Just 2% of cases involve people younger than 45, while two out of three people are diagnosed at age 65 or older.
  5. According to the ACS, lung cancer found in a localized state (i.e., stages 1 or 2) led to a five-year survival rate of 55% between 2006 and 2012. By comparison regional (stage 3) and metastatic (stage 4) lung cancer had five-year survival rates of just 28% and 4% over the same period.
  6. Approximately 415,000 Americans are alive today who have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lives.
  7. Smoking is a contributing factor to between 80% and 90% of lung-cancer cases. Men and women who smoke are a respective 23 and 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers.
  8. Nonsmokers aren’t out of the woods. Those who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20% to 30% greater chance of developing lung cancer.
  9. According to a study conducted by Milliman, lung cancer is also extremely costly. Using data between 2011 and 2014, it found the cumulative health expense for lung cancer after just five months post-diagnosis was more than $99,000. By month 23, the aggregate cost crosses $200,000. By comparison, colorectal cancer and breast cancer cost a respective $118,372 and $71,960 in its analysis at month 23. This is not cheap by any means, but nowhere near the cost of treating lung cancer.
  10. The National Institutes of Health estimates that lung cancer directly cost $13.4 billion in 2015, which doesn’t include $36.1 billion in lost worker productivity tied to hospitalization and early death.

By Sean Williams

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