This review presents the latest available international data for lung cancer incidence, mortality and survival, emphasizing the established causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer. In 2002, it was estimated that 1.35 million people throughout the world were diagnosed with lung cancer, and 1.18 million died of lung cancer-more than for any other type of cancer. There are some key differences in the epidemiology of lung cancer between more developed and less developed countries. In more developed countries, incidence and mortality rates are generally declining among males and are starting to plateau for females, reflecting previous trends in smoking prevalence. In contrast, there are some populations in less developed countries where increasing lung cancer rates are predicted to continue, due to endemic use of tobacco. A higher proportion of lung cancer cases are attributable to nonsmoking causes within less developed countries, particularly among women. Worldwide, the majority of lung cancer patients are diagnosed after the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage. Despite advances in chemotherapy, prognosis for lung cancer patients remains poor, with 5-year relative survival less than 14% among males and less than 18% among females in most countries. Given the increasing incidence of lung cancer in less developed countries and the current lack of effective treatment for advanced lung cancers, these results highlight the need for ongoing global tobacco reform to reduce the international burden of lung cancer.