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Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Read on to learn more about the disease, current research trends, and other organizations that have joined in the fight.

Lung cancer is broken down into two groups: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 80 percent of lung cancers. Among them, are these types of tumors:

  1. Epidermold carcinoma (also called squamous cell carcinoma) forms in the lining of the bronchial tubes. This is the most prevalent type of lung cancer in men.
  2. Adenocarcinoma is found in the mucas glands of the lungs. This is the most common type of lung cancer in women and among people who have not smoked.
  3. Bronchioalveolar carcinoma, which is a rare subset of adenocarcinoma, forms near the lungs’s air sacs.
  4. Large-cell undifferentiated carcinomas form near the surface (outer edges) of the lungs. They grow rapidly and often have spread by the time of diagnosis.

Small cell lung cancer accounts for 20 percent of all lung cancers. Although the cells are small, they multiply quickly and form large tumors that can spread throughout the body. Smoking is almost always the cause of small cell lung cancer. (lungcancer.org)

While current and former smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers, people can also develop lung cancer from inhaling large amounts of second hand (or passive) cigarette smoke. Other factors can put a person at a higher risk for developing the disease, including:

  1. exposure to radiation or certain industrial substances, such as arsenic, organic, chemical, radon, and asbestos
  2. medical and environmental sources
  3. air pollution
  4. tuberculosis

More than 87% of lung cancers are smoking related. However, not everyone who develops lung cancer is or was a smoker. (lungcancer.org)

In 2005, an estimated 172,570 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed, making it the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and accounting for 1.3 percent of all cancer diagnoses. (aacr)

Lung cancer will kill more than three times as many men as prostrate cancer, nearly twice as many women as breast cancer and nearly three times as many men and women as colon cancer this year. The death rate is so high that an estimated 174,470 will be diagnosed in 2006, an increase over 2005, and 162,460 will die. (lung cancer alliance)

Among all patients with lung cancer, 42 percent are alive after one year – an increase from 37 percent in 1975. Still, the relative five-year survival rate for all lung cancers combined is only 15 percent. While 49 percent of individuals live at least five years if their cancer is diagnosed early and remains only in the lungs, very few cancers – about 16 percent – are detected at this stage. (aacr)

Compared with other cancers and diseases that cause far fewer deaths each year, lung cancer research is woefully under funded by the federal government.

In 1971, President Nixon and Congress declared a “War on Cancer”. At that time, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer death – and it still is today. Funding for the National Cancer Institute grew from $400 million per year in 1971 to $4.78 billion in 2005. Most major cancers have benefited with increasingly high five-year rates. The under funding of lung cancer research has kept its survival rate almost as low as it was in 1971.

In 1992, Congress started funding cancer research programs at the Department of Defense (DOD). From 1992 to 2004, DOD funding for breast cancer research totaled $1.68 billion. An additional $150 million was appropriated for 2005. Prostate cancer research totaled $565 million from 1997-2004.  Another $85 million was appropriated for 2005. Lung cancer research received only $33 million from 1999 to 2004, with just $2.1 million appropriated for 2005.

Congress also earmarks funding with Centers for Disease Control for specific cancers. The 2005 budget included $204 million for breast and cervical cancer research, $14 million for prostate cancer research and, and $14.6 million for colon cancer research. The 2005 budget included $0 for lung cancer research.

Approximately $1,723 per lung cancer death was spent in 2004 on research, compared with: 
$13,953 for breast cancer
$10,318 for prostate cancer
$4,618 for colorectal cancer (lungcancer.org)

Federal government still does not support early screening for lung cancer, while it does for other major cancers with comparable public health service ratings. 70% of lung cancer diagnoses are still late-stage, and late-stage diagnosis is a lethal diagnosis.

Read more here:

Additional Resources

National Cancer Institute

American Cancer Society

American Lung Association

Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support and Education

Lung Cancer Online