Background: Recent epidemiologic studies have suggested changing patterns of lung cancer incidence by histologic type. The observed time trends have been attributed to a change in the rate of cigarette smoking, changes in exposure to new environmental carcinogens, and changes in the criteria for the histopathologic diagnosis of lung cancer. The current study was designed to examine the incidence patterns of lung cancer by histologic type in Connecticut and to use this information to project the future trend of the disease in this population.
Methods: This study was based on all the lung cancer cases reported to the Connecticut Tumor Registry between 1960 and 1989. On the basis of this data set, crude and age-adjusted incidence rates of lung cancer were calculated by histologic type for each sex. The age-specific incidence rates are presented by calendar year and cohort year of birth. A regression model was used to identify birth cohort, period, and age as determinants of the observed time trends.
Results: For the overall age-adjusted incidence rates, squamous cell carcinoma and small cell carcinoma have stabilized in men, whereas they are still increasing in women. The incidence of adenocarcinoma has been increasing in both men and women, but there has been a much sharper incidence among females since the mid-1970s. An examination of age-specific incidence rates by birth cohort and the results from age-period-cohort modeling indicate that incidences of all three major histologic types of lung cancer in the recent birth cohorts either have started decreasing (squamous cell carcinoma) or shown a clear reduction in the rate of increase (adenocarcinoma and small cell carcinoma). This study, however, did not indicate an increase of bronchoalveolar lung carcinoma, which was reported by other clinically based studies.
Conclusion: While the overall age-adjusted incidence rates showed different incidence patterns for different histologic types of lung cancer, a decreasing or stabilized rate for all three major histologic types of lung cancer was observed in recent birth cohorts in both males and females. The observed incidence pattern is consistent with smoking trends over time including changes in smoking prevalence and the consumption of low tar and filter cigarettes. It is expected that if the current trend in tobacco smoking continues and if there are no major changes in other risk factors for lung cancer, a forthcoming stabilization or decrease in the rate of lung cancer incidence for all major histologic types (including adenocarcinoma) in both sexes in Connecticut could be anticipated.