While most people refer to the "average age" in casual conversation, most statistics refer to the median age rather than the average. The median age is the halfway point: half of all diagnoses happen below that age, and half happen above that age. The average is all the ages added up and then divided by the number of cases. So if four people are diagnosed at ages 20, 21, 23, and 28, the average is 23, but the median is 22. (Learn more about the average and the median at our Mathematics guidesite.)
The median age for a diagnosis of lung cancer is 72, according to the most recent statistics collected between 2004 and 2008. From 1975 to 1999 the median age for a diagnosis of lung cancer was 66.
Median Age for Lung Cancer in Women vs MenThe median age for lung cancer is slightly different for men and for women in most studies. Women tend to develop lung cancer at a younger age than men by roughly 2 years. There are also a disproportionate number of women among people who develop lung cancer at a young age (less than 50 years).
Age of Lung Cancer Diagnosis Broken Down by DecadesThe percentage of lung cancers that are diagnosed at each age is as follows (for example, for every 100 cases of lung cancer, 20 of them will be diagnosed in people age 55 to 64):
- Age 20 to 34 – 1.0%
- Age 35 to 44 – 1.3%
- Age 45 to 54 – 7.9%
- Age 55 to 64 – 19.6%
- Age 65 to 74 – 30.5%
- Age 75 to 84 – 30.6%
- Age 85 and older – 10.0%
Fu, J. et al. Lung Cancer in Women – Analysis of the National Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Database. Chest. 2005. 127(3):768-777.
National Cancer Institute. Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results. SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Lung and Bronchus. Accessed 02/26/12. http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html