As World Lung Cancer Day approaches on 1 August, it serves as a reminder that lung cancer remains a major public health issue.
Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world and the leading cause of cancer death. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that there were 2.09 million cases of lung cancer and 1.76 million deaths due to lung cancer in 2018.
Lung cancer: a global killer in our midst
Lung cancer has one of the lowest five-year relative survival rates out of all cancers and the survival rate is especially low for patients in advanced stages. The incidence of lung cancer has been decreasing in countries such as the US and UK due to public health initiatives and tobacco control policies. However, low- and middle-income countries are seeing an increase in incidence rates due to the tobacco epidemic.
The majority of lung cancer cases are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), accounting for approximately 85% of all cases. Figure 1 shows estimated diagnosed incidence (cases per 100,000 population) of NSCLC for men and women in the seven major markets (7MM: the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK) in 2019.
GlobalData epidemiologists estimate that the diagnosed incidence rates for men are higher compared to women in 2019 in the 7MM. The lowest difference between the sex-specific rates is in the US and the highest difference is in Japan. The number of incident cases is expected to increase worldwide, despite the decrease in incidence rates. This may be due to differences in variation of incidence rates worldwide, including differences between incidence rates for men and women. Studies have shown that incidence rates for men in developed countries are decreasing due to tobacco policies. However, incidence rates for women have been increasing worldwide.
7MM, diagnosed incidence (cases per 100,000) of NSCLC, both sexes, ≥18 years, 2019
The increasing incidence rates of lung cancer among women and decreasing rates among men highlight the need to address lung cancer at a sex-specific level. Women may see a higher burden of lung cancer in the future, especially if rates continue to increase. The increase in rates among women may be attributed to changes in smoking behaviour or a higher detection rate in women through diagnostic screening. Additional research is needed to understand the drivers behind the increasing rates among women.
The American Cancer Society recommends increasing anti-tobacco measures targeted to women and continuing research on smoking-related susceptibility to lung cancer by sex. Improving public health policies, developing better screening tools, and effective treatment options continue to be the main goals for decreasing the number of new cases of lung cancer and improving survival rates.