Supporting Research for Non-Tobacco Related Cancers

Smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer, but about 20% of people who die from lung cancer have never smoked or used any other forms of tobacco. In fact, some lung cancers occur in people without any known risk factors.

Since the early 1990s, the American Cancer Society has invested over $134 million in lung cancer research, including over $29 million for research specific to lung cancer not associated with smoking. 

Tobacco Atlas Offers Solutions Toward a Tobacco-Free World

The 6th edition of the Tobacco Atlas book and companion website was produced by the American Cancer Society and Vital Strategies. Check out our slideshow on 12 Key Findings to learn more about the physical, social, and economic harms of tobacco and about evidence-based solutions to advance toward a tobacco-free world.

Studies show the right anti-smoking marketing messages work—like the "Sponge" mass media ad campaign that showed how much cancer-producing tar could be squeezed out of a lung after 1 year of smoking.

Lung Cancer Facts & Figures in Brief

To understand how well cancer control is working in the United States, we need up-to-date information about the number of people affected by cancer and where they live. Each year, the ACS Surveillance Research team analyzes data on lung cancer as part of the Cancer Facts & Figures report. This publication provides detailed analyses and estimates of cancer incidence and mortality trends in the United States, as well as the latest information on risk factors, early detection, treatment, and current research.

Since 1990, Lung Cancer Death Rates Have Declined 54%

As the Director of Surveillance Research at the American Cancer Society, Rebecca Siegel, MPH, analyzes data on lung cancer each year as part of the Cancer Facts & Figures report. 

In our news story about the report, we said:

Reductions in the lung cancer death rate account for almost half of the total drop in the cancer death rate from 2014 to 2018. Overall declines in the lung cancer death rate are mostly due to reductions in smoking, although improved treatments for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common subtype, appear to have accelerated this progress. Even with these advances, lung cancer is still the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women. More than 80% of lung cancer deaths are due to cigarette smoking.

Key lung cancer statistics in the US include: 

  • About 235,760 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021. From 2014 to 2018, the rates of new lung cancer cases dropped 5% a year in men and 4% a year in women.
  • Trends in cancer death rates are the best measure of progress against cancer. About 131,880 people will die from lung cancer in 2021. Lung cancer death rates declined by 54% since 1990 among men and 30% since 2002. Yet, lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of death from cancer.
  • Improvements in the lung cancer death rate are due to declines in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment.
  • Differences between men and women reflect historical patterns of tobacco use. Women began smoking in large numbers many years later than men, and women were slower to quit. However, smoking patterns do not appear to explain the higher lung cancer rates being reported in women compared with men born around the 1960s.
  • Compared to other types of cancer, lung cancer has the most striking variation by state. In Kentucky, the death rate from lung cancer is 3 to 4 times higher than in Utah. This difference reflects the historically much higher prevalence of smoking in Kentucky. In 2018, 27% of adults in West Virginia smoked, compared with 9% in Utah. State tobacco control policies can have a large impact on smoking rates.
  • Anyone can get lung cancer. Yet people who smoke are about 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer than people who don't smoke, and about 80% of deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking. 
  • People who quit smoking, regardless of age, increase their longevity. Those who quit by age 30 live an average of 10 years longer than if they had continued to smoke.

Find more statistics about lung cancer on the Cancer Statistics Center:

  • Estimated new cases and deaths by state
  • Graphics showing historical trends in incidence rates (1975-2017) and death rates (1930-2018) by sex
  • Recent incidence rates (2013-2017) and death rates (2014-2018) by sex, by race and ethnicity, and by state
  • Probability of developing cancer (2015-2017) and dying from cancer (2015-2017)
  • 5-year survival rates (2010-2016) by stage at diagnosis

Use the analysis tool in the drop-down menu to see any of these statistics in comparison to other types of cancer.

Most People with Lung Cancer Smoked

Smoking cigarettes is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer and causes about 80% of deaths from the disease. But people who don’t smoke can develop lung cancer too. A new study found that out of 100 people in the United States who were recently diagnosed with lung cancer, about 12 of them (12%) had never smoked cigarettes. The study was co-led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). The results were published in a research letter in JAMA Oncology.

See the full highlight about smoking and lung cancer statistics. 

Podcast: A Mom & "Never Smoker" with Lung Cancer

Delaram Cavey was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer 7 years ago, and she was fortunate to have two wonderful daughters to help her along her journey. 

Listen to their story. 

Spotlight on ACS Research Publications

The American Cancer Society (ACS) employs a staff of full-time researchers and funds scientists across the United States who relentlessly search for answers to help us better understand cancer, including lung cancer. Here are some highlights of their work.

Work Must Persist to Further Lung Cancer Screening and Equity

“The increasing, but still low, use of lung cancer screening reflects both ongoing efforts to screen eligible adults, and the many challenges to do so. Kentucky, which has supported screening implementation efforts, is unique, as its screening rates are more than twice the national average and four times that of other high lung-cancer burden states like West Virginia and Arkansas.”—Stacey Fedewa, MPH, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Fedewa's published study.


Mini Mouse Lung Organoids Offer New Lab Model for Research

“We know very little about the early events that transform a normal lung cell into a cancer cell. In this study, we were able to use tumor samples from people who had been diagnosed with an early stage of lung cancer to show that our organoids truly mimic what happens in patients at the very early stages. We can see changes in the organoids within 7 days that can take months to see in lab mice and even longer, probably years, in patients.”—Carla Kim, PhD


See the highlight about Dr. Kim's published study.


Improving Precision Therapies for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

“Lung cancers that harbor EGFR gene mutations are treated with EGFR inhibitors, including the drug osimertinib, but they inevitably develop drug resistance. As such, there is a need to develop new therapies to combat drug resistance.

“In this study, we evaluated an HER3 antibody drug conjugate (called HER3-DXd) as a treatment approach for drug-resistant cancers.

“We observed that HER3-DXd is effective in EGFR-inhibitor drug-resistant models. We further note, that osimertinib treatment increases the membrane expression of HER3, resulting in enhanced internalization of HER3-DXd and increased efficacy in vitro and in vivo.  Our findings suggest that the combination of osimertinib and HER3-DXd may be an effective combination treatment strategy for EGFR-mutant cancers.”­—Pasi Jänne, MD, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Jänne's published study.


Study Finds 20% of Cancer Deaths Linked to Smoking in 147 Cities

“Research shows that variations in total cigarette tax rates and other tobacco-control initiatives likely contribute to differences in smoking-related cancer deaths in the same regions. For example, there’s a smaller proportion of deaths from cancer related to cigarette smoking in the New York City area compared to the rest of the state likely because of the dual tax on cigarettes there—$1.50/pack city tax plus $4.35/pack state tax. Broad and equitable implementation and enforcement of proven tobacco control intervention at all government levels could avert many deaths from cancer across the US.”—Farhad Islami, MD, PhD

See the highlight about Dr. Islami's published study.


Improving Quality of Life for Lung Cancer Survivors

“A primary goal of my research is to develop and evaluate the impact of supportive care interventions that are tailored to the needs of patients with cancer and their caregivers throughout their illness trajectory.

“I’m using innovative delivery modalities, including mobile apps, video tools, and telehealth, to make supportive care interventions accessible outside of the cancer clinic for patients and their caregivers.

“In this pilot study with my Massachusetts General Hospital colleagues, we tested the feasibility and acceptability of virtual visits for patients with lung cancer to help achieve their best possible quality of life  after their treatments had ended.” —Jennifer Temel, MD

See the highlight about Dr. Temel’s published study.


Research Grants in Lung Cancer

The American Cancer Society funds scientists and medical professionals who study cancer across the United States.

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Total Lung Cancer Grants in Effect as of August 1, 2021

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Total Lung Cancer Grant Funding in Effect as of August 1, 2021