Lung cancer facts:
- Lung cancer is a common form of cancer. It is the chief cause of cancer deaths for both men and women, although the rate of lung cancer is declining significantly for men.
- The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 172,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 163,000 people die from lung cancers each year.
- Lung cancer is considered to be the most tragic type of cancer because, in most cases, it could have been prevented. Smoking tobacco is responsible for 87 percent of lung cancers. The risk of dying from lung cancer is 22 times higher for men who smoke and 12 times higher for women who smoke than it is for people who never smoked.
Lung cancer is cancer of the lungs. Like other parts of the body, the lungs are made up of many types of cells. Cells divide in an orderly, controlled way to produce more cells when more cells are needed in the body. When cells divide in an abnormal, uncontrolled way, they can form either a benign or malignant tumor:
- Benign tumors are not cancerous. They are rarely life-threatening.
- Malignant tumors are cancerous. Cancer cells can spread to nearby healthy cells and destroy them. The cancerous cells can also invade other parts of the body. Cancerous cells in the lungs can spread to the lymph glands, which are located nearby. The cancer can also spread to other parts of the body.
Lung cancers can be divided into two main types: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways, and they are treated differently.
Non-small cell lung cancer
Most lung cancers are non-small cell. There are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
- For men, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common kind of lung cancer. It does not spread as quickly as other types, and it usually starts in the bronchi.
- For women and for nonsmokers, the most common type of lung cancer is adenocarcinoma. It usually starts around the outer edges of the lungs and under the lining of the bronchi.
- A group of cancers with large, abnormal cells -- large cell carcinomas -- also usually begins around the outer edges of the lungs.
Small cell lung cancer
About 15 to 20 percent of the newly diagnosed lung cancer cases are small-cell carcinomas -- a type of lung cancer in which the cells are small and round. It is also sometimes called "oat cell" lung cancer. This type of cancer grows rapidly and quickly spreads to other organs.
Please use the following links to access comprehensive lung cancer information provided by the National Cancer Institute from its PDQ® Database.
Learn more about non-small cell lung cancer...
Learn more about small cell lung cancer...