Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of all cancers in the U.S.. It accounts for more deaths per year than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined . In all states, overall cancer rates are declining, however, lung cancer rates in American women are still on the rise. Experts believe the incline may be reaching a plateau over the last two years due to a decrease in smoking rates . Utah’s lung cancer rates (both incidence and mortality rates) are significantly lower than the national average. In 2002, Utah’s incidence and mortality rates were less than half that of the United States. These lower rates are almost certainly due to our state population’s lower smoking rates. From 1998 to 2002, Utah was ranked lower than any other state in incidence and mortality rates due to lung cancer (See figure 1) .
Nearly 80,000 women are estimated to die of lung cancer this year in the United States. For reasons still unclear to researchers, women are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer than men when exposed to the same levels of tobacco smoke over time. This increased risk is especially true in low-level exposure to cigarettes . Although survival rates have improved over the last three decades, lung cancer still has a relatively poor prognosis. On average only about 15% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer survive for five years after diagnosis .
Cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor for developing lung cancer. Between 85% to 95% of all lung cancer cases are attributed to smoking . Other risk factors include environmental and/or occupational exposures such as asbestos and radon. Secondhand smoke poses a significant risk in the development of lung cancer as well, especially when a person is exposed during childhood. There has also been evidence to show that genetics play a role in the risk of developing lung cancer [2,3,4].
Unfortunately, there are no early detection tests that have been shown effective in improving mortality rates in lung cancer. In 2002, the National Cancer Institute began a clinical trial to determine if CT scans can detect lung cancer at an earlier stage and in turn, decrease mortality rates .
An important aspect of lung cancer is the stigma that comes with the diagnosis. Since most lung cancer victims are smokers, many people feel that lung cancer is a self-inflicted and, therefore, a deserved disease. This social stigma leads to lung cancer victims feeling guilt and shame which in turn leads to a decreased desire to see a physician for treatment . Non-smokers find it difficult to understand the powerful addiction of cigarettes. Many experts believe that this stigma has been a major influence leading to a severe lack of research funds to tackle the problem of lung cancer. Although lung cancer kills more Americans than any other cancer, funding for research is among the lowest for any cancer (See figure 2) .
- Available Online at http://lungcancer.org. Retrieved on Oct 23, 2006.
- American Cancer Society. Available Online at http://www.cancer.org. Retrieved on Sep 24, 2006.
- National Cancer Institute. Available Online at http://cancer.gov. Retrieved on Oct 13, 2006.
- Center for Disease Control. Available Online at http://cdc.wonder.org. Retrieved on Sep 24, 2006.
- Utah’s Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health: Breast Cancer Incidence, Breast Cancer Mortality, Breast Cancer Screening Outcomes. Available Online at http://ibis.health.utah.gov. Retrieved on Oct 11, 2006.