Lung cancer the disease – key facts

Bringing lung cancer out of the shadow

Lung cancer – the disease

The UK’s deadliest cancer

Lung cancer is the UK’s biggest cancer killer1; it kills over 33,000 people each year.1 This is more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and leukaemia combined.1

How many people are affected by lung cancer in the UK?

Around 22,700 men and 14,700 women are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.2 The disease accounts for one in 20 of all deaths in the UK,3 one in six of all cancer cases and one in four of all cancer deaths.4It is reported that four people die from lung cancer in the UK every hour.1

Who is at risk?

The majority of lung cancer cases are among smokers (nine out of ten),5 although one in eight of all lung cancer deaths are among people who have never smoked.6 Passive smoking (second-hand smoking), exposure to radon gas, asbestos and other chemicals, together with diet and family history can all increase the risk of developing the disease.5

More women die from lung cancer than breast cancer1 and women smokers are twice as likely to develop the disease than men who smoke.7 Even among non-smokers, women’s risk of developing lung cancer is higher than men – this is thought to be due to genetic factors.7

Lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are strongly associated with deprivation. Lung cancer is two and half times more common in deprived groups than it is affluent ones.4

In terms of geography, Scotland and the North of England have the highest number of lung cancer deaths.4

What is the average survival of someone diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK?

Half of all lung cancer patients die within six months of diagnosis.8 Around a quarter of people with lung cancer in England and Wales(24%)9 will live to one year and less than one in ten (6% in England and Wales) are still alive five years after diagnosis.10 

You are four times more likely to survive from lung cancer in Chelsea, Stockport and Solihull than you are in Northumberland, Rotherham or Sunderland – a result of both socioeconomic and health provision factors.11

How does this compare with other countries?

UKsurvival rates compare poorly with the rest of Europe and United States. According to the Eurocare Study, average five year survival in England is around 7.5 percent compared to a European average of over nine percent12 and a 15 percent average in the United States.13

Why is lung cancer survival in the UK so poor?

Poor survival from lung cancer is a result of a wide variety of factors. These are as follows:

  • uncertainty among people as to when to seek help, not recognizing the symptoms and not seeking help until it is ‘too late’;
  • reluctance to seek help due to the guilt attached to smoking
  • difficulty amongst GPs in identifying suspicious symptoms early enough;
  • time taken to progress from first appointment through to diagnostic tests onto treatment is too lengthy in some areas;
  • a variation in quality and provision of cancer services across the country –  as a result, not all patients are receiving the optimal treatment;
  • decades of under-investment in people and equipment – this includes a shortage of PET scanners in the UK (currently there are only seven PET scanners in England and six of these are based in London and the South East);14
  • lack of screening programmes or research into screening
  • patients in the UK may be generally less healthy and therefore less likely to be fit for such things as major surgery.






4.    Cancer Atlas of UK and Ireland, 2005. Chapter 13, p139


6.    UKfigures extrapolated from Mannino DM, Ford E, Giovono GA & Thun M. ‘Lung cancer deaths in the United States from 1979 to 1992: an analysis using multiple-cause mortality data. Int J Epidemiol 1998; 27: 159-166


8.    Cancer Research UK Statistics Dept

9.    One- and five-year survival of patients diagnosed in 1991-95 and 1996-99: major cancers, sex and age, England and Wales. 2005. (Accessed at

10.  Coleman M, Rachet B, Woods L, et al.Trends in socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival in England and Wales up to 2001. British Journal of Cancer 2004; 90.


12.  EUROCARE 3. Cancer survival in Europe: IARC, 2003 (Accessed 14 Suppl 5, at  and

13.  Ries LAG, Eisner MP, Kosary CL, et al. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2001. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2004

14.  A Framework for the Development of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Services in England, DOH, October 2005

For further information, please contact:-

Lynsey Conway on 07778 304233


UKLCC Secretariat: Red Hot Irons Ltd, Miria House, 1683b, High St, Knowle, Solihull, B93 0LL

Tel: 01675 477605
Media enquiries only: Call 07778 304233

Legal Notices | Privacy Policy
| Articles of AssociationMemorandum of Association

The UKLCC is a private company limited by guarantee without share capital and incorporated as a Community Interest Company (CIC) registered at Companies House (Registration Number 11914752) and operating throughout the United Kingdom