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Lung cancer mortality statistics

Mortality statistics for lung cancer by country in the UK, age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by geography and socio-economic variation. 

Find out more about the counting and coding of this data.

By country in the UK

Lung cancer has an enormous impact on national mortality and currently accounts for 6% of all deaths (including non-cancer deaths) in the UK. There are over twice as many deaths from lung cancer as the next ranked cancer, bowel cancer.

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK (2012), accounting for 22% of all deaths from cancer.1-3 Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death among men in the UK (2012), accounting for 23% of all male deaths from cancer. Among women in the UK lung cancer is also the most common cause of cancer death (2012), accounting for 21% of all female cancer deaths. 

In 2012, there were 35,371 deaths from lung cancer in the UK (Table 2.1): 19,304 (55%) in men and 16,067 (45%) in women, giving a male:female ratio of around 12:10.1-3 The crude mortality rate shows that there are 62 lung cancer deaths for every 100,000 males in the UK, and 50 for every 100,000 females.

The European age-standardised mortality rates (AS rates) are significantly higher in Scotland compared with the other constituent countries of the UK for both males and females (Table 2.1).1-3 The mortality rate in England is also significantly lower than that in Northern Ireland for males only.4

Table 2.1: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Number of Deaths, Crude and European Age-Standardised (AS) Mortality Rates per 100,000 Population, UK, 2012

England Wales Scotland Northern Ireland UK
Male Deaths 15,625 1,044 2,094 541 19,304
Crude Rate 59.3 69.1 81.3 60.5 61.6
AS Rate 43.9 46.2 58.9 51.3 45.5
AS Rate - 95% LCL 43.3 43.4 56.4 47.0 44.9
AS Rate - 95% UCL 44.6 49.0 61.4 55.6 46.2
Female Deaths 12,706 850 2,095 416 16,067
Crude Rate 46.8 54.3 76.6 44.8 49.6
AS Rate 29.7 31.7 46.7 32.7 31.4
AS Rate - 95% LCL 29.1 29.6 44.7 29.6 30.9
AS Rate - 95% UCL 30.2 33.9 48.7 35.9 31.9
Persons Deaths 28,331 1,894 4,189 957 35,371
Crude Rate 53.0 61.6 78.8 52.5 55.5
AS Rate 36.0 38.2 51.8 40.7 37.6
AS Rate - 95% LCL 35.5 36.5 50.3 38.1 37.2
AS Rate - 95% UCL 36.4 39.9 53.4 43.2 38.0

Download this table XLS (34KB) PPT (165KB) PDF (40KB)

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

Analysis of lung cancer mortality rates throughout the UK shows significant variation between health boundaries for both males and females, with the highest rates being in Scotland and Northern England, and the lowest rates in Southern England.4,11

section reviewed 08/09/14
section updated 08/09/14

 

By age

Lung cancer mortality is strongly related to age, with the highest mortality rates being in older men and women. In the UK between 2010 and 2012, an average of 48% of lung cancer deaths were in men and women aged 75 years and over, and almost nine in ten (89%) were in those aged 60 years and over (Figure 2.1).1-3

Age-specific mortality rates rise sharply from around age 45-49, with the highest rates in the 85+ age group in men and at age 80-84 years in women. Mortality rates are generally similar between males and females until age 50-54, after which time rates are higher for males than for females and this gap is widest in the 85+ age group, when the male:female mortality ratio of age-specific rates (to account for the different proportions of males to females in each age group) is 21:10 (Figure 2.1).1-3

Figure 2.1: Lung Cancer (C33-C34) Average Number of Deaths per Year and Age-Specific Mortality Rates, UK, 2010-2012

deaths_crude_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (58KB) PPT (138KB) PDF (75KB)

section reviewed 08/09/14
section updated 08/09/14

 

Trends over time

Lung cancer mortality rates have decreased overall for males and increased overall for females in the UK since the early 1970s (Figure 2.2).1-3 For males, European AS mortality rates have decreased by 57% between 1971-1973 and 2010-2012. For females, mortality rates have increased by 63% between 1971-1973 and 2010-2012; however, most of this rise occurred between the early 1970s and late 1980s, with rates increasing by 60% between 1971-1973 and 1988-1990. Over the last decade (between 2001-2003 and 2010-2012), European AS mortality rates have decreased by 19% in males and increased by 5% in females.

Figure 2.2: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, UK, 1971-2012

mort_asr_uk_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (58KB) PPT (138KB) PDF (75KB)

The different patterns of lung cancer death rates in men and women reflect past smoking behaviour: smoking prevalence peaked earlier in men than women in Great Britain, and accordingly the highest lung cancer mortality ratios are observed in men born around the turn of the century and in women born in the 1920s (Figure 2.3).6

Figure 2.3: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Birth Cohort Mortality, Ages 35-84, England and Wales

mort_birthcohort_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (43KB) PPT (124KB) PDF (51KB)

The importance of lung cancer as a cause of death has grown throughout most of of the twentieth century. In the early 1900s, lung cancer was a rare disease causing around one death annually in every 100,000 people.5 By 1950, the lung cancer mortality rate had risen six-fold in men and three-fold in women, prompting the first epidemiological study that linked tobacco smoking and lung cancer in Great Britain.5

Since the 1950s, lung cancer mortality rates have increased, peaked and then decreased for all male age groups and some female age groups in England and Wales (Figures 2.4 and 2.5).1-3,7

In men, rates have increased overall since the 1950s for the older age groups, and decreased overall since the 1950s for the younger age groups. Rates peaked first in the younger age groups in the 1950s and 1960s, and peaked last in men aged 85+ in the late 1980s. The largest increase in rates was for men aged 85+ between the early 1950s and the mid-1980s, with European AS mortality rates increasing between 14-fold and 16-fold, whilst the largest decrease was in men aged 45-54 between the early 1950s and 2012, with European AS mortality rates dropping by around 80% during the time period. These trends closely reflect the patterns in male incidence by age.

Figure 2.4: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, By Age, Males, England and Wales, 1950-2012

mort_asr_age_m_ew_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (44KB) PPT (125KB) PDF (40KB)

In women, rates have increased overall since the 1950s for all age groups. Rates rose for all age groups from the early 1950s before beginning to fall in the younger age groups; dropping from the mid-1970s for women aged 45-54 and the late 1980s for women in the 55-64 age group. In the 65-74 age group, rates began to fall in the early 1990s, but began to increase again from the mid-2000s. However, rates in women in the 75-84 and 85+ age groups continued to rise during the 1990s and into this century, with some indication recently of a downward trend for those aged 75-84 (Figure 2.5).1-3,7 The largest increase in mortality rates has been in women aged 85+, with European AS mortality rates increasing between 11- and 12-fold between the early 1950s and 2012. These trends closely reflect the patterns in female incidence by age.

Figure 2.5: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, By Age, Females, England and Wales, 1950-2012

mort_asr_age_f_ew_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (66KB) PPT (138KB) PDF (51KB)

section reviewed 08/09/14
section updated 08/09/14

 

In Europe and worldwide

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in Europe, with around nearly 354,000 deaths from lung cancer in 2012 (20% of the total). In Europe (2012), the highest World age-standardised mortality rates for lung cancer are in Hungary for men and Denmark for women; the lowest rates are in Sweden for men and Belarus for women. UK lung cancer mortality rates are estimated to be the 11th lowest in males in Europe, and 5th highest in females.9 These data are broadly in line with Europe-specific data available elsewhere.10

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death worldwide, with around 1,590,000 deaths from lung cancer in 2012 (19% of the total). Lung cancer mortality rates are highest in Eastern Asia and lowest in Western Africa, but this partly reflects varying data quality worldwide.9

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

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

 

Socio-economic variation

There is evidence for a strong association between lung cancer mortality and deprivation for both males and females in England.8 England-wide data for 2007-2011 show European age-standardised mortality rates are 170% higher for males living in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived, and 176% higher for females (Figure 2.6).8 Male differences in deprivation are similar to females.

Figure 2.6: Lung Cancer (C33-C44), European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates by Deprivation Quintile, England, 2007-2011

mort_asr_age_f_ew_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (46KB) PPT (127KB) PDF (44KB)

The estimated gap in lung cancer mortality between people living in the most and least deprived areas in England has not changed in the period 2002-2011. It has been estimated that there would have been around 9,900 fewer lung cancer deaths each year in England during 2007-2011 if all people experienced the same mortality rates as the least deprived.8

Associations with deprivation have also been investigated for incidence.

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

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References for lung cancer mortality

  1. Data were provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, January 2014. Similar data can be found here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/all-releases.html?definition=tcm%3A77-27475.
  2. Data are provided by ISD Scotland on request, March 2014. Similar data can be found here: http://gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/general/ref-tables/index.html.
  3. Data are provided annually by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry on request, December 2013. Similar data can be found here: http://www.nisra.gov.uk/demography/default.asp22.htm.
  4. NCIN, UK. Cancer e-atlas.  European Age-Standardised Mortality Rates, UK (England: former Primary Care Trusts; Wales; Scotland: NHS Health Boards; Northern Ireland: Health and Social Care Trusts), 2009-2011.
  5. Doll R and Hill AB. Smoking and carcinoma of the lung. Preliminary report. British Medical Journal 1950:739-48.
  6. Swerdlow AJ, dos Santos Silva I, and Doll R. Cancer Incidence and Mortality in England Wales: trends and risk factors. 2001: Oxford University Press
  7. Quinn M, Babb P, Brock A et al. Cancer Trends in England Wales 1950-1999. Vol. SMPS No. 66. 2001: TSO.
  8. Cancer Research UK and National Cancer Intelligence Network. Cancer by deprivation in England: Incidence, 1996-2010, Mortality, 1997-2011. London: NCIN; 2014.
  9. 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. Accessed December 2013.
  10. 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.
  11. NCIN. Cancer Incidence and Mortality by Cancer Network, UK, 2005. London: NCIN; 2008.
Updated: 8 September 2014