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The Leading Cause of Cancer Deaths

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

With an estimated 160,390 deaths in 2007, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in men and women in the United States. It causes more deaths than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast and prostate).

The number of lung cancer deaths among men has reached a plateau, but it is rising among women. In 1987, the disease surpassed breast cancer to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

Smoking accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. Nonsmokers have a 20 to 30 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer if they are exposed to secondhand smoke than if they are not.

Exposure to radon, a tasteless, odorless gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock, is estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for about 10 to 14 percent of lung cancer deaths in the United States.

Lung cancer can also be caused by occupational exposures, including asbestos, uranium and coke.

The expected five-year survival rate for patients in whom lung cancer is diagnosed is 16 percent, compared with 64.1 percent for colon, 88.5 percent for breast and 99.9 percent for prostate cancer. The rate increases to 49 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized. However, only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage.

About six out of 10 people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed.

SOURCE: American Lung Association

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