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Decrease in lung cancer deaths in women

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women1, and the second-leading cause of death after heart disease.2,3 But the good news is that lung cancer deaths in women continue to decline each year4, thanks in part to federal programs to help women quit smoking and federally funded research leading to improved treatments, scientific understanding, and public health policies.5,6

Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, yet 1 in 5 women diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. Women are more likely than men to develop non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), a type of lung cancer that is most commonly found in non-smokers.7 The hormone estrogen may play a role. A 2009 report from the Women's Health Initiative found that hormone therapy increased the risk of dying from lung cancer in post-menopausal women.8 However, women of all ages are more likely to survive longer with lung cancer than men.9 Women who have surgery for certain types of lung cancer, including NSCLC, also have better survival rates than men.10 They also respond better to some of the chemotherapy medications used for lung cancer.11

Lung cancer death rates in women decreased each year from 2004 to 2010 because of advances in treatments and successful smoking cessation programs.12 The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recently recommended lung cancer screening for high risk individuals.13 This may allow for the identification of lung cancer in its early stages when it is most treatable.


  1. CDC, Lung Cancer
  2. CDC, Leading Causes of Death in Females United States, 2010 (current listing)
  3. NIH, NCI, A Snapshot of Lung Cancer
  4. CDC, Cancer Mortality Trends Among Women by Race/Ethnicity
  5. CDC, Lung Cancer Incidence Trends Among Men and Women — United States, 2005–2009
  6. NIH, NCI, Lung Cancer Treatment
  7. NIH, NCI, Lung Cancer Incidence Rates High Among Women Who Have Never Smoked
  8. Chlebowski, RT, et al. (2009). Oestrogen plus progestin and lung cancer in postmenopausal women (Women's Health Initiative trial): a post-hoc analysis of a randomised controlled trial. Lancet; 374(9697): 1243-51.
  9. NIH, NCI Fast Stats
  10. Scaglia, NC, et al (2013). Role of gender in the survival of surgical patients with nonsmall cell lung cancerAnn Thorac Med; 8(3): 142-147.
  11. Marquez-Garban, DC, et al. (2009). Targeting Aromatase and Estrogen Signaling in Human Non-Small Cell Lung CancerAnn N Y Acad Sci; 1155: 194-205.
  12. CDC, Rates of new lung cancer cases drop in U.S. men and women
  13. USPSTF, Screening for Lung Cancer