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Lung cancer incidence statistics

Incidence statistics for lung cancer by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data on lifetime risk, and by geography, stage at diagnosis, morphology, socio-economic variation, ethnicity, and prevalence. 

Find out more about the coding and counting of this data

By country in the UK

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK (2011), accounting for 13% of all new cases. It is the second most common cancer in both males (14% of the male total) and females (12%).1-4

In 2011, there were 43,463 new cases of lung cancer in the UK (Table 1.1): 23,770 (55%) in men and 19,693 (45%) in women, giving a male:female ratio of around 12:10.1-4 The crude incidence rate shows that there are 77 new lung cancer cases for every 100,000 males in the UK, and 61 for every 100,000 females.

The European age-standardised incidence rates (AS rates) are significantly higher in Scotland compared with the other constituent countries of the UK for both males and females. For males only, rates are significantly lower in England compared with the other UK countries (Table 1.1).1-4

Table 1.1: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Number of New Cases, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2011

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Male Cases 19,190 1,347 2,601 632 23,770
Crude Rate 73.4 89.5 102.1 71.1 76.5
AS Rate 56.1 61.2 75.9 62.6 58.2
AS Rate - 95% LCL 55.4 57.9 73.0 57.7 57.5
AS Rate - 95% UCL 56.9 64.5 78.8 67.5 59.0
Female Cases 15,699 1,054 2,495 445 19,693
Crude Rate 58.2 67.6 92.2 48.1 61.2
AS Rate 39.0 40.9 59.0 37.4 40.8
AS Rate - 95% LCL 38.4 38.4 56.7 34.0 40.3
AS Rate - 95% UCL 39.6 43.3 61.3 40.9 41.4
Persons Cases 34,889 2,401 5,096 1,077 43,463
Crude Rate 65.7 78.4 97.0 59.4 68.7
AS Rate 46.6 49.9 66.0 48.5 48.5
AS Rate - 95% LCL 46.1 47.9 64.2 45.6 48.0
AS Rate - 95% UCL 47.1 51.9 67.8 51.4 48.9

Download this table XLS (33KB) PPT (168KB) PDF (26KB)

95% LCL and 95% UCL are the 95% lower and upper confidence limits around the AS rate

Lung cancer incidence rates in Scotland are among the highest in the world,5 reflecting the country’s history of high smoking prevalence.6 Scotland is the only UK nation where lung cancer remains overall the most common cancer.1-4 Lung cancer incidence is generally higher in urban than rural areas of Scotland, mainly due to higher smoking prevalence in urban areas.8 For example, lung cancer incidence in Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS Board is almost almost a third higher than the Scotland average (2007-2011) and smoking prevalence in this region is among the highest of all Scottish NHS boards.7,9 Asbestos exposure among shipbuilding industry workers in this region may also have contributed to the higher lung cancer incidence rate.10

A north-south divide in lung cancer incidence has existed in Great Britain since at least the 1990s.11,12 The latest analysis of lung cancer incidence rates throughout England reports significant variation across the UK, with the highest rates being in the north of England and lowest rates being in the east, south-east and south-west,13,14 reflecting regional variation in smoking prevalence.15

section reviewed 20/03/14
section updated 20/03/14

By age

Lung cancer incidence is strongly related to age, with the highest incidence rates being in older men and women. In the UK between 2009 and 2011, an average of more than four in ten cases were diagnosed in men and women aged 75 years and over, and almost nine in ten cases were in those aged 60+ (Figure 1.1).1-4

Age-specific incidence rates rise steeply from around age 40 and peak in those aged 80 and older. Incidence rates are similar for men and women up to age 50-54, but thereafter male rates are higher than female rates, and this gap widens with increasing age. At age 55-59, the male:female incidence ratio of age-specific rates (to account for the different proportions of males to females in each age group) is around 12:10; by age 85+, it is around 21:10 (Figure 1.1).1-4

Figure 1.1: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Average Number of New Cases per Year and Age-Specific Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2009-2011

cases_crude_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (59KB) PPT (137KB) PDF (337KB)

section reviewed 20/03/14
section updated 20/03/14

 

Trends over time

Lung cancer was the most common cancer in the UK until 1997, when it was overtaken by breast cancer.1-4

Male lung cancer incidence rates have decreased overall in Great Britain since the mid-1970s, whilst female rates have increased overall (Figure 1.2).1-3 For males, European AS incidence rates decreased by 47% between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011. Rates were stable between 1975-1977 and 1981-1983, but then fell almost continuously between 1981-1983 and 2002-2004 (by 42%). Since then the decline has been more gradual, with rates in 2009-2011 being 9% lower than those in 2002-2004. In contrast, female rates increased by 73% between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011, with the increase being less sharp in the past decade.

Figure 1.2: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, By Sex, Great Britain, 1975-2011

inc_asr_gb_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (53KB) PPT (132KB) PDF (44KB)

Trends in lung cancer incidence rates reflect past trends in cigarette smoking prevalence. Smoking rates peaked earlier in males than in females, so lung cancer rates in men have been decreasing for some decades, but this decrease is yet to start in women (Figure 1.3).1-3,15,27 In 1975, the male:female ratio for lung cancer cases was around 39:10, but has since fallen sharply (12:10 in 2011).

Figure 1.3: Lung Cancer (C33-C34) European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates and Smoking Prevalence, Great Britain, 1948-2011

Chart showing prevalence of smoking and trends in lung cancer incidence in men and women in Britain

Lung cancer incidence trends for the UK are shown in Figure 1.4.1-4 Over the last decade (between 2000-2002 and 2009-2011), the European AS incidence rates have decreased by 14% in males, but increased by 13% in females.

Figure 1.4: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Sex, UK, 1993-2011

inc_asr_uk_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (49KB) PPT (130KB) PDF (40KB)

Lung cancer incidence rates have decreased overall for almost all of the broad age groups in males in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.5).1-3 Differing trends by age group reflect smoking behaviour in birth cohorts. For males aged 80 and over lung cancer incidence increased by 47% between 1975-1977 and 1985-1987 and has since declined to only slightly higher than the rate in 1975-1977. For males aged 70-79, the rate declined by 41% between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011, though this includes a small increase during the mid-to-late 1970s. For males in all other age groups rates have fallen almost continuously since the mid-1970s, by 69%, 63% and 55% in the 40-49, 50-59 and 60-69 age groups, respectively, between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011.

Figure 1.5: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Age, Males, Great Britain, 1975- 2011

inc_asr_age_m_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (59KB) PPT (136KB) PDF (52KB)

Conversely, lung cancer incidence rates have increased overall for many of the broad age groups in females in Great Britain since the mid-1970s (Figure 1.6).1-3 Again these difference by age group reflect smoking behaviour in birth cohorts. For women aged 80 and over, lung cancer incidence rates have more than tripled since the mid-1970s, and continue to increase. In the 70-79 age group, incidence rates have more than doubled since the mid-1970s, though almost all of this increase took place before the turn of the century. Among those aged 60-69, rates increased by 62% overall between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011, with most of the increase occurring by the late 1980s, followed by a decrease during the 1990s and an increase since the early 2000s. Rates for females aged 40-49 decreased by 21%, and those for women aged 50-59 remained stable, between 1975-1977 and 2009-2011.

Figure 1.6: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates per 100,000 Population, by Age, Females, Great Britain, 1975- 2011

inc_asr_age_f_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (59KB) PPT (136KB) PDF (51KB)

section reviewed 20/03/14
section updated 20/03/14

Lifetime risk

Lifetime risk is an estimation of the risk that a newborn child has of being diagnosed with cancer at some point during their life. It is a summary of risk in the population but genetic and lifestyle factors affect the risk of cancer and so the risk for every individual is different. 

In 2010, in the UK, the lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is 1 in 14 for men and 1 in 18 for women.16 

The lifetime risk for lung cancer has been calculated by the Statistical Information Team using the ‘Adjusted for Multiple Primaries’ (AMP) method; this accounts for the possibility that someone can have more than one diagnosis of lung cancer over the course of their lifetime.17

section reviewed 24/04/13
section updated 24/04/13

 

By morphology

More than one in ten (12%) lung cancer cases are classified as small cell lung cancer (SCLC), data from the National Lung Cancer Audit (LUCADA) for England in 2011 show.21 The remaining cases are classified as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC, 87%) and carcinoid (1%). There are different types of NSCLC, including squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

section reviewed 03/10/13
section updated 03/10/13

By stage at diagnosis

Staging for lung cancer describes how big the tumour has grown and whether it has spread.

NSCLC is staged according to the TNM staging system which classifies disease as Stage I, II, III or IV, whilst SCLC has historically been staged using the Veterans’ Administration Lung Study Group definitions, which divides SCLC into limited stage or extensive stage disease. However, it has been proposed that the TNM staging system should be adopted for the future staging of SCLC.28

The majority (49%) of patients diagnosed with lung cancer present at Stage IV or SCLC-extensive (Table 1.2).21 More people are diagnosed at an advanced stage (69% are diagnosed at Stages III or IV or SCLC-extensive) than an early stage. Similar data have been reported from the former Anglia Cancer Network.29

Table 1.2: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Proportion of Cases Diagnosed at Each Stage, Adults (Aged 15-99), England and Wales, 2011

Stage Adults
Stage I 14.5%
Stage II 7.3%
Stage III 31.8%
Stage IV 35.8%
Stage Not Known 10.6%
All Stages 100.0%

Download this table XLS (30KB) PPT (120KB) PDF (17KB)

section reviewed 03/10/13
section updated 03/10/13

 

In Europe and worldwide

Lung cancer is the fourth most common cancer in Europe, with more than 410,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012 (12% of the total). In Europe (2012), the highest World age-standardised incidence rates for lung cancer are in Hungary for men and Denmark for women; the lowest rates are in Sweden for men and Ukraine for women. UK lung cancer incidence rates are estimated to be 7th lowest in males in Europe, and seventh highest in females.18 These data are broadly in line with Europe-specific data available elsewhere.19

Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with nearly 1,825,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012 (13% of the total). Lung cancer incidence rates are highest in Northern America and lowest in Middle Africa, but this partly reflects varying data quality worldwide.18

Use our interactive map to explore the data for lung cancer.

Variation between countries may reflect different prevalence of risk factors, use of screening, and diagnostic methods.

section reviewed 11/06/14
section updated 11/06/14

 

By socio-economic variation

There is evidence for a strong association between lung cancer incidence and deprivation for both males and females in England.22 England-wide data for 2006-2010 show European age-standardised rates are 166% higher for males living in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived, and 173% higher for females (Figure 1.7).22 Male differences in deprivation are similar to females.

Figure 1.7: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Incidence Rates by Deprivation Quintile, England, 2006-2010 

dep_inc_bar_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (44KB) PPT (125KB) PDF (44KB)

The estimated gap in lung cancer incidence between people living in the most and least deprived areas in England has not changed in the period 1996-2010. It has been estimated that there would have been around 11,700 fewer lung cancer cases each year in England during 2006-2010 if all people experienced the same incidence rates as the least deprived.22

Associations with deprivation have also been investigated for mortality.

section reviewed 29/05/14
section updated 29/05/14

By ethnicity

Age-standardised rates for White males with lung cancer range from 61.1 to 62.6 per 100,000. Rates for Asian males are significantly lower, ranging from 23.1 to 37.2 per 100,000 and the rates for Black males are also significantly lower, ranging from 30.1 to 48.9 per 100,000. For females there is a similar pattern - the age-standardised rates for White females range from 35.2 to 36.0 per 100,000, while rates for Asian and Black females are also significantly lower ranging from 6.9 to 12.4 per 100,000 and 8.5 to 15.1 per 100,000 respectively.30

Ranges are given because of the analysis methodology used to account for missing and unknown data. For lung cancer, 155,679 cases were identified; 23% had no known ethnicity.

section reviewed 20/03/14
section updated 20/03/14

 

Prevalence

Prevalence refers to the number of people who have previously received a diagnosis of cancer and who are still alive at a given time point. Some patients will have been cured of their disease and others will not.

In the UK around 38,100 people were still alive at the end of 2006, up to ten years after being diagnosed with lung cancer (Table 1.3).26

Table 1.3: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), One, Five and Ten Year Cancer Prevalence, UK, 31st December 2006

1 Year Prevalence 5 Year Prevalence 10 Year Prevalence
Male 8,958 16,977 21,197
Female 6,844 13,692 16,944
Persons 15,802 30,669 38,141

Download this table XLS (30KB) PPT (120KB) PDF (17KB)

Worldwide, it is estimated that there were nearly 1.68 million men and women still alive in 2008, up to five years after their diagnosis.20

section reviewed 17/05/13
section updated 17/05/13

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References for lung cancer incidence

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, July 2013. Similar data can be found here:
    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/cancer-statistics-registrations--england--series-mb1-/index.html.
  2. Data were provided by ISD Scotland on request, May 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Publications/index.asp.
  3. Data were provided by the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit on request, June 2013. Similar data can be found here:
    http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgid=242&pid=59080.
  4. Data were provided by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, June 2013. Similar data can be found here:
    http://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerData/OnlineStatistics/.
  5. Parkin DM, Whelan SL, Ferlay J, et al. Cancer Incidence in Five Continents Volume VIII. IARC Scientific Publications.Vol. 155. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2002.
  6. Scottish Executive Health Department. Cancer Scenarios: An aid to planning cancer services in Scotland in the next decade. Edinburgh: The Scottish Executive, 2001.
  7. ISD Scotland. Cancer statistics. Lung cancer and mesothelioma 2007-2011. Accessed February 2013.
  8. Pearce J, Boyle P. Is the urban excess in lung cancer in Scotland explained by patterns of smoking? Soc Sci Med 2005;60(12):2833-43.
  9. Scottish Public Health Observatory. ScotPHO Tobacco Profiles 2013. NHS Board & CHP Overview. Edinburgh: ISD Scotland, 2013.
  10. De Vos Irvine H, Lamont DW, Hole DJ, et al. Asbestos and lung cancer in Glasgow and the west of Scotland. BM 1993;306(6891):1503-6
  11. Quinn M, Wood H, Cooper N, et al, eds. Cancer Atlas of the United Kingdom and Ireland 1991–2000. Studies on Medical and Population Subjects No. 68. London: ONS; 2005.
  12. Quinn M, Babb P, Brock A et al. Cancer Trends in England & Wales 1950-1999. (PDF 5897KB) SMPS No. 66: TSO, 2001.
  13. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). Cancer e-Atlas. Accessed December 2013.
  14. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN). Cancer Incidence and Mortality by Cancer Network, UK, 2005. London: NCIN; 2008.
  15. Office for National Statistics (ONS). General Lifestyle Survey 2010. London: ONS; 2012.
  16. Lifetime risk was calculated by the Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK, 2012.
  17. Cancer Research UK Statistical Information Team. Statistics on the risk of developing cancer, by cancer type and age. Calculated using 2008 data for the UK using the ‘Adjusted for Multiple Primaries (AMP)’ method (Sasieni PD, Shelton J, Ormiston-Smith N, et al. What is the lifetime risk of developing cancer?: The effect of adjusting for multiple primaries. Br J Cancer 2011. 105(3): 460-5). http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/incidence/risk/.
  18. Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed December 2013.
  19. Ferlay J, Steliarova-Foucher E, Lortet-Tieulent J, et al.Cancer incidence and mortality patterns in Europe: Estimates for 40 countries in 2012. European Journal of Cancer (2013) 49, 1374-1403.
  20. Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, et al. GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from http://globocan.iarc.fr. Accessed May 2011.
  21. Health and Social Information Centre. National lung cancer audit report 2012 (report for the audit period 2011). Leeds; 2012.
  22. Cancer Research UK and National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer by deprivation in England: Incidence, 1996-2010, Mortality, 1997-2011. London: NCIN; 2014.
  23. Donnelly DW, Gavin AT, Comber H. Cancer in Ireland 1994-2004: A comprehensive report. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry/National Cancer Registry, Ireland; 2009.
  24. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit. Cancer in Wales, 1995-2009: A Comprehensive Report. Cardiff: Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit; 2011.
  25. Rowan S. Trends in cancer incidence by deprivation, England and Wales, 1990-2002. Health Stat Q 2007:24-35.
  26. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) One, Five and Ten Year Cancer Prevalence. London: NCIN; 2010.
  27. Smoking data prior to 1974 from Wald N, Nicolaides-Bouman A. UK Smoking Statistics. 1991: OUP.
  28. Developed for NICE by the National Collaborating Centre for Cancer. The diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer (update of NICE clinical guideline 24). Cardiff: National Collaborating Centre for Cancer; 2011.
  29. The National Cancer Registration Service, Eastern Office. Personal communication.
  30. National Cancer Intelligence Network and Cancer Research UK. Cancer Incidence and Survival by Major Ethnic Group, England, 2002-2006. 2009.
Updated: 29 May 2014