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Cigarette smoking and other possible risk factors for lung cancer

David M Mannino, MD
Section Editors
James K Stoller, MD, MS
David E Midthun, MD
Deputy Editor
Sadhna R Vora, MD


Lung cancer is among the most common cancers worldwide. In the United States and other industrialized countries it is the major cause of cancer mortality, primarily because of exposure to cigarette smoke.

The epidemiology and risk factors associated with the development of lung cancer are reviewed in this topic.


The majority of data examining the epidemiology of lung cancer comes from the developed world, where cigarette smoking is the predominant risk factor. In the developing world additional risk factors, such as smoke and air pollution, may be particularly important.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide in men, and second most common in women. Worldwide, lung cancer occurred in approximately 1.8 million patients in 2012 and caused an estimated 1.6 million deaths [1]. In the United States, lung cancer will occur in about 225,000 patients and cause over 160,000 deaths annually [2].

There are substantial variations in lung cancer incidence between different countries and between men and women. These differences are a reflection in large part of differences in the prevalence of tobacco smoking. Changes in the incidence of lung cancer over time have been closely correlated with increases and decreases in the smoking of cigarettes.

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 05, 2017.
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