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Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

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Maine Cancer Registry - Lung Cancer: Risk Factors, Prevention & Early Detection

Lung Cancer in the U.S.

According to the 2006 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, an estimated 174,470 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with lung cancer and 162,460 people will die from this disease annually. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among both women and men, second to breast and prostate cancer respectively. It accounts for 12.5% of all new cancer cases. Because of its low survival rate, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, accounting for 29% of the total. In the late 1980's, lung cancer deaths for U.S. men stopped rising and have been slowly falling since the early 1990's. However, for women, lung cancer deaths continued to rise in the 1990's and are just beginning to plateau.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

  • Smoking is currently estimated to cause 85-90% of all lung cancer cases. The more you smoke the more likely you are to get lung cancer.
  • The risk of dying from lung cancer is 22 times higher among male smokers and 12 times higher among female smokers than among people who have never smoked.
  • Cigar and pipe smoking increase the risk of lung cancer.
  • Breathing second-hand smoke also contributes to lung cancer risk for non-smokers.
  • Two well-know causes of work-related lung cancer are radon and asbestos.
  • People may also be exposed to enough radon at home to increase their chance of developing lung cancer, especially if they smoke.
  • People with low intakes of fruits and vegetables have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Prevention of Lung Cancer

  • The most effective prevention for lung cancer is to never smoke.
  • Even if you have already smoked, quitting now can make a difference. Ten years after quitting, cigarette smokers cut their chances of getting lung cancer in half.
  • Homes should be tested for radon.

Early Detection of Lung Cancer

  • There are no good screening tests to detect lung cancer early.
  • Only 18% of lung cancers are found at the earliest stage, and even for these people, only half will be alive five years later.
  • Cases detected at the distant stage (when disease has spread to another part of the body) have only a 2% chance of living five more years.
  • The best way to reduce the chance of dying of lung cancer is to not smoke tobacco.

Radon in Maine Homes

  • Approximately 1/3 of Maine homes have radon concentrations above the U.S. EPA's action level of 4 picocuries per liter of air. In Southern Maine, approximately 1/2 of the homes have high radon levels.
  • All Maine homes should be tested for radon.
  • For additional information about testing for radon in your home call the Maine CDC, Radiation Control Program at (800) 232-0842.

For information on lung cancer statistics in Maine, please see MCR's Annual Reports.