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Lung cancer survival statistics

One-, five- and ten-year survival statistics for lung cancer by age and trends over time are presented here. There are also data by deprivation. The ICD codes for lung cancer are ICD-10 C33 and C34.

The statistics on these pages give an overall picture of survival. Unless otherwise stated, the statistics include all adults diagnosed with lung cancer, at all ages, stages and co-morbidities. The survival time experienced by an individual patient may be much higher or lower, depending on specific patient and tumour characteristics. If you are a patient, you will probably find our CancerHelp pages more relevant and useful. 

The latest survival statistics available for lung cancer in England are 2005-2009 (followed up to 2010). Find out why these are the latest statistics available.

 

One-, five- and ten-year survival

The latest age-standardised relative survival rates for lung cancer in England during 2005-2009 show that 29.4% of men are expected to survive their disease for at least one year, falling to 7.8% (not age-standardised) surviving five years or more (Table 3.1).1,2 The survival rates for women are similar, with 33% expected to survive for one year or more and 9.3% (not age standardised) surviving for at least five years. Broadly similar rates have been reported for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.3-5  

Table 3.1: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Age-Standardised One-, Five- and Ten-Year Relative Survival Rates, Adults (Aged 15-99), England 2005-2009 and England and Wales 2007

Relative Survival (%)
1 Year 5 Year 10 Year
Sex 2005-2009 2005-2009* 2007**
Male 29.4 7.8 4.9
Female 33.0 9.3 5.9

Download this table XLS (38KB)

*Five-year survival rates are not age-standardised
**Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

A common misconception is to treat five-year survival rates as ‘cure’ rates. However, for lung cancer survival continues to fall beyond five years after diagnosis (Table 3.1).1,2 The five-year relative survival rates for lung cancer are the second lowest of the 21 most common cancers in England.1 Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival outcomes of any cancer because over two-thirds of patients are diagnosed at a late stage when curative treatment is not possible. Compounding this is the fact that because of the average age of onset of lung cancer (approximately 70 years) and the fact that the majority of patients are smokers, there is a high incidence of co morbidities in this population.6 Another factor which is demonstrated by the NCIN study of Routes to Diagnosis, is that 38% of all lung cancer cases are emergency presentations.7

section reviewed 26/06/12
section updated 26/06/12

 

By age

As with nearly all cancers, relative survival for lung cancer is higher in younger men and women, even after taking account of the higher background mortality in older people. The reasons for this are likely to include a combination of better general health, more effective response to treatment and earlier diagnosis in younger people overall. Differences in underlying tumour biology may also play a part for some cancer sites.

The five-year relative survival rates for lung cancer in men in England during 2005-2009 ranged from 35% in 15-39 year olds to 3% in 80-99 year olds (Figure 3.1).1 Relative survival was similar in women for all age groups, ranging from 18% in 40-49 year olds to 3% in 80-99 year olds.  

Figure 3.1: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Five-Year Relative Survival Rates by Age*, England 2005-2009

surv_5yr_age_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (56KB)

*Figure for females aged 15-39 not available

section reviewed 26/06/12
section updated 26/06/12

Trends over time

Unlike the majority of cancers, relative survival for lung cancer has not showed much improvement since the early 1970s. Compared with some European countries, England has low lung cancer survival and low use of surgical resection for lung cancer.8 A recent study has concluded that lung cancer survival in England could plausibly increase if a larger proportion of patients underwent surgical resection.8

Increasing cancer survival rates remains a major priority of Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer.9 An outcome of this Strategy is the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI), which is a public sector/third sector partnership between the Department of Health, National Cancer Action Team, and Cancer Research UK. The role of NAEDI is to promote the earlier diagnosis of cancer and cancers with low survival rates such as lung cancer, will be a priority.

One-year relative survival rates have been used as an indicator of early diagnosis, since death before one year may be due to the disease being diagnosed at a late stage. In men, one-year relative survival rates for lung cancer increased from 15% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 29.4% in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.2).1,10-12 In women, one-year relative survival rates increased from 13% to 33% during the same time periods, respectively. 

Figure 3.2: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Age-Standardised One-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995, England 1996-2009

surv_1yr_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (55KB)

*Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards


While relative survival rates are still influenced by early diagnosis after five years, they are also strongly dependent on the success of treatment. In men, five-year relative survival rates for lung cancer increased from 4% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to 7.8% (not age-standardised) in England during 2005-2009 (Figure 3.3).1,10-12 In women, five-year relative survival rates increased from 4% to 9.3% (not age-standardised) during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.3: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Age-Standardised Five-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995, England 1996-2009

surv_5yr_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (55KB)

*Survival rates are for England only from 1996 onwards
**Survival rates for 2005-2009 are not age-standardised

Ten-year relative survival rates for men diagnosed with lung cancer increased from 4% in England and Wales during 1971-1975 to a predicted 5.2% in England in 2007 (Figure 3.4).2,10,13 In women, ten-year relative survival rates increased from 4% to a predicted 6% during the same time periods, respectively.

Figure 3.4: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Age-Standardised Ten-Year Relative Survival Rates, England and Wales 1971-1995 and Predicted 2007, England 1996 to 2000

surv_10yr_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (54KB)

*Survival rates are not age-standardised from 1971-1985
**Ten-year survival rates have been predicted for patients diagnosed in 2007 (using the hybrid approach)

section reviewed 26/06/12
section updated 26/06/12

 

Survival by stage

The majority (67.6%) of patients diagnosed with lung cancer between 2003-2006 present at stage III or stage IV (Table 3.2), using data for the former Anglia Cancer Network.16 More people are diagnosed at an advanced stage IV (35.8%) than an early stage, with the smallest proportion of known-stage new cases presenting at stage II (7.3%).

Table 3.2: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Number and Proportion of Cases Diagnosed at Each Stage, Adults Aged 15-99 Years, Former Anglia Cancer Network, 2003-2006

Total Cases Percentage of Cases
Stage I 582 14.5%
Stage II 294 7.3%
Stage III 1275 31.8%
Stage IV 1436 35.8%
Stage Not Known 426 10.6%
All Stages 4013 100.0%

Download this table XLS (30KB) PPT (123KB) PDF (13KB)

Note: Number of new cases by stage included in the survival analysis.

One-year survival from lung cancer is strongly related to the stage of the disease at diagnosis (Figure 3.5)16. People presenting at stage I have the highest survival rates (71%). Survival is much lower for those diagnosed with stage IV disease (14%). Survival for those people with stage not known is similar to those with stage IV disease (17%).

Figure 3.5: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), One-Year Relative Survival Rates by Stage, Adults Aged 15-99 Years, Former Anglia Cancer Network, 2003-2006

surv_1yr_bystage_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (43KB) PPT (132KB) PDF (31KB)

As expected, five-year survival of people diagnosed with lung cancer during 2003-2006 (Figure 3.6) is lower than one-year survival across known stage groups16. People presenting at stage I have the highest survival (35%). Survival is lower for those diagnosed with stage III disease (6%). Stage IV survival could not be calculated at five years due to the small number of people surviving more than two years. Survival for those people with stage not known is similar to those with stage III disease (6%).

Figure 3.6: Lung Cancer (C33-C34), Five-Year Relative Survival Rates by Stage, Adults Aged 15-99 Years, Former Anglia Cancer Network, 2003-2006

surv_5yr_bystage_lung.swf

Download this chart XLS (43KB) PPT (133KB) PDF (33KB)

Note: Stage IV survival could not be calculated at five years due to the small number of people surviving more than two years.

section reviewed 04/07/13
section updated 04/07/13

 

By deprivation

Analyses of lung cancer survival rates by socio-economic deprivation in England and Wales have recorded a small but significant gap of 1.4% between men in the most affluent groups and those in the most deprived groups diagnosed with lung cancer during 1996-99. Although this difference is seemingly small, because of the large numbers of patients involved, this has an important consequence.14

An earlier analysis based on all lung cancer patients diagnosed between 1986-90 estimated that 1,300 deaths would have been avoided if every socioeconomic group had the same survival rate as that for the most affluent group.15

section reviewed 26/06/12
section updated 26/06/12

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References for lung cancer survival

  1. For data for 2005-2009: Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer survival in England: Patients diagnosed 2005-2009 and followed up to 2010. London: ONS; 2011.
  2. For data for 2007: Coleman MP, et al. Research commissioned by Cancer Research UK, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 2010.
  3. Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU). Cancer Survival Trends in Wales 1985-2004. Cardiff: WCISU; 2010.
  4. Information Services Division Scotland (ISD Scotland). Cancer Statistics. Cancer of the lung. Accessed September 2011.
  5. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry (NICR). Cancer Survival Online Statistics. Lung. Accessed September 2011.
  6. The Information Centre for Health and Social Care. National Clinical Audit Support Programme Lung Cancer NLCA Report 2005. Leeds: Information Centre for Health and Social Care; 2006.
  7. National Cancer Intelligence Unit (NCIN). Routes to Diagnosis. London: NCIN; 2010.
  8. Riaz SP, Lüchtenborg M, Jack RH, et al. Variation in surgical resection for lung cancer in relation to survival: Population based study in England 2004-2006. Eur J Cancer 2012;48(1):54-60.
  9. Department of Health. Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer. London: Department of Health; 2011.
  10. For data for 1996-2003: Rachet B, Maringe C, Nur U, et al. Population-based cancer survival trends in England and Wales up to 2007. Lancet Oncol 2009;10:351-369. Age-standardised figures were provided by the author on request.
  11. For data for 1971-1990: Coleman MP, Babb P, Damiecki P, et al. Cancer Survival Trends in England and Wales, 1971-1995: Deprivation and NHS Region. Series SMPS No 61. London: ONS; 1999.
  12. For data for 1991-1995: Office for National Statistics (ONS). Cancer Survival: England and Wales, 1991-2001, twenty major cancers by age group. London: ONS; 2005.
  13. Cancer Research UK. CancerStats report. Survival – England and Wales. London: Cancer Research UK; 2004.
  14. Coleman MP, Rachet B, Woods LM, et al. Trends and socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival in England and Wales up to 2001. Br J Cancer 2004;90(7):1367-73.
  15. Coleman MP, Babb P, Sloggett A, et al. Socioeconomic inequalities in cancer survival in England and Wales. Cancer 2001;91(I Suppl):208-16.
  16. The National Cancer Registration Service, Eastern Office. Personal communication.
Updated: 4 July 2013