New Orleans Coroner, Dr. Dwight McKenna, says lung cancer is the second most common
cancer in both men and women, and it is the leading cause of cancer death in the United
States – regardless of gender. The American Cancer Society estimates that 235,760 people will
be diagnosed with lung cancer and nearly 132,000 people will die of the disease.
The costs of cancer and its treatment can be costly, totaling $21 billion in annual costs.
Smoking tobacco is by far the primary risk factor for lung cancer, and it is estimated to account
for 90% of all lung cancer cases. Compared with non smokers, the relative risk of lung cancer
is about 20 times higher for smokers.
Because the average age of lung cancer diagnosis is 70 years, increasing age is also
considered a risk factor for lung cancer. Although lung cancer has a relatively poor prognosis –
with an average 5-year survival rate of 20.5% – early stage lung cancer is more treatable and
has a better outcome.
Annual lung cancer screening is now recommended to begin for patients at age 50. Experts
say the expanded screening criteria could save between 30,000 – 60,000 lives per year. For
people who quit smoking, the guidelines apply only to those who have stopped smoking within
the past 15 years. Furthermore, the benefit does not extend beyond age 80 or where other
conditions reduce life expectancy. To lower one’s risk, Dr. McKenna recommends quitting smoking,
getting daily exercise and eating healthier.