Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States and worldwide. In the U.S., lung cancer is responsible for 29% of cancer deaths, more than those from breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined.
In 2007, the most recent year for which we have statistics available, 158,683 people -- 88,243 men and 70,354 women -- died from lung cancer in the U.S. Since smoking is responsible for 85% of lung cancers, statistically lung cancer caused by smoking is responsible for nearly 135,000 U.S. deaths per year.
That said, at least 60% of lung cancers diagnosed today occur in those who either have never smoked or quit smoking in the past. Cigarette smoking, including a past history of smoking, remains the leading cause of lung cancer, while exposure to radon in the home is the leading cause in non-smokers. Secondhand smoke is believed to account for about 3,400 lung cancer deaths per year in those who have never smoked.
The overall survival rate for those with lung cancer, sadly, remains at around 15%. Despite being the leading cause of cancer deaths, funding for lung cancer lags behind that of several other cancers, perhaps due to the stigma – the feeling that somehow people deserve to develop lung cancer because of smoking. Nobody deserves to develop cancer.
American Cancer Society. Secondhand Smoke. Updated 11/14/11. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ped/content/ped_10_2x_secondhand_smoke-clean_indoor_air.asp
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lung Cancer Statistics. Updated 03/11/10. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/statistics/