Who is affected by lung cancer

Lung cancer usually occurs in older people. The average age of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer is 70. 1

Men are more likely to develop lung cancer than women but fewer men smoke now than in the past, so the death rate from lung cancer for men is decreasing. The death rate from lung cancer for women is leveling off after increasing for several decades.2

  • Black men are more likely to develop lung cancer than men of any other racial group.
  • White women and black women are about equally likely to develop lung cancer.

The risk of dying from lung cancer is 20 times higher for women who smoke two or more packs of cigarettes a day than for women who do not smoke.3

If you live with a smoker, you have 2 to 3 times the risk for lung cancer compared with a person who lives in a nonsmoking environment.4 About 25% of nonsmokers who develop lung cancer probably get it from being exposed to secondhand smoke.5


  1. American Cancer Society (2007). What are the key statistics for lung cancer? Detailed Guide: Lung Cancer—Non–Small Cell. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1x_What_Are_the_Key_Statistics_About_Lung_Cancer_15.asp?sitearea=.
  2. American Cancer Society (2007). Cancer Facts and Figures 2007, pp. 1–52. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Available online: http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/CAFF2007PWSecured.pdf.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2002). Women and smoking: A report of the Surgeon General. MMWR, 51(RR-12): 1–30.
  4. Theodore PR, Jablons D. (2006). Neoplasms of the lung section of Thoracic wall, pleura, mediastinum, and lung. In GM Doherty, LW Way, eds., Current Surgical Diagnosis and Treatment, 12th ed., pp. 377–389. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  5. Crawford J (2007). Lung cancer. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 12, chap. 8. New York: WebMD.

Last Updated: June 4, 2008

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