Lung Cancer Fact Sheet - 2015 - North America

Lung Cancer Fact Sheet - 2015 - North America

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Contact:  Jeff Wolf                                                                                           Becky Bunn                                      
IASLC Director of Communications                                                             IASLC Projects Specialist     | 720-325-2952                                               | 720-325-2946                                                                                                

IASLC Highlights Promising Advances

WHAT:  Lung Cancer Awareness Month

WHEN:  November 1-30, 2015


  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Every year, lung cancer causes more than 1.6 million deaths; more than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.
  • On a per death basis, lung cancer receives 7 percent of the funding breast cancer receives in the U.S., and this is representative of the rest of the world.1
  • Funding for lung cancer research is critical due to the disease’s prominence and because doctors often find lung cancer in later stages, when it is less treatable. New advances hold great promise for screening, early detection and personalized therapies, but need financial support.
  • Not only smokers get lung cancer. For example, in the U.S., about 31,000 people die each year from non-smoking-related lung cancer (about the same number as die from prostate cancer).
  • Other causes of lung cancer include radon gas in homes (20,000 deaths/year), workplace exposure, second-hand smoke, cancer treatments and genetics.2
  • Lung cancer does not have to be fatal. Groundbreaking new treatments dramatically alter lung cancer survival rates every day.
  • In 2012, the tobacco industry spent over 40 times more on tobacco advertising and promotion in the U.S. than the NIH spent on lung cancer research ($9.6 billion tobacco industry versus $233 million NIH research).3


  • New immunotherapy (using the body’s own immune cells to attack cancer cells) shows great promise for patients with advanced, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
  • Personalized medicine is providing hope by treating a patient already diagnosed with lung cancer with drugs that are effective based on specific characteristics of their tumor.
  • Evidence suggests that quitting smoking measurably improves patient survival.
  • Screening with low-dose CT can reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent compared to standard chest X-ray among adults with a 30 pack-a-year smoking history who were current smokers or had quit within 15 years.4


  • Even in North America, studies indicate that up to 40 percent of those diagnosed with lung cancer never see a cancer specialist (an oncologist or hematologist). Access to timely and optimal treatment is critical to improving success rates of this disease.5
  • Lung cancer occurrence and treatment success rates vary widely between states in the U.S. (with a geographical variation far greater than any other cancer), mostly impacted by different smoking prevalence among the states. For example, the lung cancer incidence rate in Kentucky is 3.5 times higher than that in Utah. 6
  • Unlike most cancers, which have witnessed steady increases in survival rates, advances have been slow for lung cancer, for which the 5-year survival rate is about 18 percent. This is partly because more than half of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in late stages, which only have a 4 percent (5-year) survival rate. 6


  • Education is critical; people need to know to ask their doctors about screening if they have risk factors. They need to know about smoking cessation programs, clinical trials and new developments that promise hope for lung cancer treatment.
  • Changing the perception of lung cancer can lead to greater support and funding which will increase survival rates and help turn lung cancer into a manageable, chronic disease.

For more information, visit To speak with an expert from any region across the globe, please reach out to IASLC Director of Communications Jeff Wolf or Projects Specialist Becky Bunn.

Download a PDF version of this fact sheet.

About the IASLC:

The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) is the only global organization dedicated to the study of lung cancer. Founded in 1974, the association's membership includes more than 4,000 lung cancer specialists in over 90 countries.  The IASLC brings together leading clinicians and scientists from around the world to engage international collaboration and to share best practices in the fight against lung cancer. Just in the past year, the IASLC helped develop a Staging and Classification System used by doctors worldwide to more effectively stage and treat lung cancer. Visit for more information.


1LCSM Lung Cancer Facts. Access Date: Oct. 7, 2015:

2U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Radon. Access Date: Sept 26,2015:

3Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2012. Federal Trade Commission (2015). Access Date: Sept. 30, 2015:

And NIH Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories (RCDC). Access Date: Sept. 30, 2015:

4New England Journal of Medicine, Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed Tomographic Screening. Access Date: Sept. 30, 2015:

5Journal of Thoracic Oncology, Sept 2015, Volume 10, Supplement 2, pages S272-273. Access Date: Oct 26, 2015:

6Cancer Statistics, 2015. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Access Date: Oct. 21, 2015: