Chris Hansen, ACS CAN President

A Blog From the ACS CAN President

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Lung Cancer: Reducing Risk and Supporting Patients

November 5, 2018

As the cause of one in every four cancer deaths, lung cancer impacts a significant number of Americans each year. An estimated 154,050 people are expected to die from the disease in 2018. While smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer - accounting for nearly 8 out of 10 lung cancer deaths in the US - more than 30,000 never-smokers die of lung cancer every year. If counted as a separate category, lung cancers not caused by smoking would rank among the top ten fatal cancers.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women and can impact anyone, whether or not they have a history of tobacco use. During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) continues to advocate for public policies that seek to reduce the burden of lung cancer, including tobacco control and cessation programs, sustained increases in funding for cancer research and increasing access to affordable health care.   

Smoking is by far the leading cause of lung cancer – 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. are caused by tobacco use. To reduce tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, ACS CAN supports three proven tobacco control policy interventions:

  1. Increasing the price of tobacco products through regular and significant tobacco tax increases of at least $1.00 per pack of cigarettes with an equivalent rate on other tobacco products;
  2. Implementing comprehensive smoke-free policies; and
  3. Adequately funding evidence-based tobacco prevent and cessation programs.

In addition, we pursue evidence-based policies that prevent and reduce tobacco use, including raising the age of sale for tobacco products to 21 and restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products. By advocating for local, state and federal laws that prevent youth from smoking and support cessation efforts by people who smoke, ACS CAN works to reduce tobacco use and addiction, the highest preventable risk of lung cancer.

While cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer, people who have never smoked or who have quit smoking can also develop lung cancer. As many as 20 percent of people who die from lung cancer in the U.S. have never smoked nor used any form of tobacco. Continued research is necessary to better understand the causes of lung cancer in non-smokers and to identify possible ways to prevent this disease, which is why ACS CAN supports sustained increases to federal funding for cancer research at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Most lung cancers have already progressed to an advanced stage by the time of diagnosis. ACS CAN advocates for every American to have access to quality, affordable health care, including potentially lifesaving early screenings for those at high risk of developing lung cancer. 

More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. ACS CAN is committed to supporting lung cancer patients and survivors by improving access to health care, increasing funding for cancer research and implementing proven tobacco control policies at every level of government.