Lung Cancer

By: CPMC Genetic Counseling Staff
Reviewed by: Roy Levinson, MD, Cooper University Hospital and Tara Schmidlen, MS, LCGC, Coriell Institute for Medical Research

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is a cancer that forms in the tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages1. Taking in oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide are the main functions of the lungs1. In some cases, after cancer starts in the cells lining the air passages, it is able to grow and spread to other parts of the body. Lung cancer is often a life-threatening disease because it tends to spread before it can be detected at early stages. Smoking is the primary reason people develop lung cancer2. Many people are able to reduce their risk of lung cancer by changing behaviors, such as quitting smoking. Symptoms of lung cancer often do not appear until the disease is already in an advanced, non-curable stage. However, lung cancer can be diagnosed and cured, if caught in an early stage.

How Common is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of preventable death. Lung cancer accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women3. Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 13; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 163. It is estimated that, in 2015, there will be about 221,200 new cases of lung cancer and 158,040 deaths3.

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Learn more about Lung Cancer, from symptoms to understanding your risk, through the links below.

Page References

1. American Cancer Society. What is non-small cell lung cancer? 2015 January 20 [cited 2015 January 27]; Available from:
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Causes of lung cancer. March 19, 2014; Available from:
3. American Cancer Society. What are the key statistics about lung cancer? 2015 January 20 [cited 2015 February 3]; Available from:

Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Learn more about Lung Cancer Learn More› ]

Risk Factors

Both genetic and non-genetic factors play a role in Lung Cancer Learn More› ]

Reduce Your Risk

Risk-reducing behaviors for Lung Cancer Learn More› ]

The CPMC Study

Learn how the CPMC Study identifies your risk for Lung Cancer Learn More› ]