The epidemiology of lung cancer in women

Ann Epidemiol. 1994 Mar;4(2):102-10. doi: 10.1016/1047-2797(94)90054-x.


Female lung cancer mortality rates have increased dramatically since 1950, and in 1987 lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among US women. The epidemic in women, as in men, is attributable to cigarette smoking. Smoking prevalence in women peaked in the 1960s and 1970s and has since been declining, although fully 23.5% of adult women were current smokers in 1991. As a reflection of declines in smoking prevalence, lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are declining slightly in women under 45 years old, and it is predicted that overall age-adjusted rates may begin to turn around early in the next century. Survival for the disease is poor; the relative 5-year survival rate for women diagnosed between 1981 and 1987 was only 16% for whites and 13% for African-Americans. This article describes trends in female lung cancer rates by race and age, provides staging and survival statistics, and briefly reviews the evidence on smoking and other risk factors (environmental tobacco smoke, radon, pollution, family history, previous lung disease, and diet) for lung cancer in women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Survival Rate
  • United States / epidemiology