A new epidemiological study entitled “U.S. lung cancer trends by histologic type” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer, whereby a team of scientists from the National Cancer Institute concluded that U.S. lung cancer rates are declining, uncovering new trends related to cancer subtype, sex, race/ethnicity, and age, while providing an accurate state-of-the-art study for adequate monitorization of the population’s lung health.
In the U.S., lung cancer is responsible for an estimated 159,260 annual deaths and has a higher mortality rate than breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer combined.
So far, it had been thought that lung cancer incidence rates were declining across the country, however not much was known regarding the tendencies of different cancer subtypes, such as squamous and small cell carcinomas, or about different demographic groups.
To counter this gap, the researchers analyzed information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program in order to update the classification of lung cancer subtypes and determine the rates of lung cancer overall, alongside squamous cell, small cell, adenocarcinoma, large cell, other, and unspecified carcinomas.
They specifically examined lung cancer rates among U.S. whites and blacks who were diagnosed from 1977 to 2010 and white non-Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and white Hispanic people diagnosed from 1992 to 2010.
The team found that since the 1990s, overall squamous and small cell carcinoma rates declined, albeit faster in males than in females. The rates for unspecified lung cancer also declined during this time period. Furthermore, adenocarcinoma rates decreased among males in 2005 but rapidly raised from 2006 to 2010 independently of racial, ethnic or gender group. Also, the recent adenocarcinoma rates seem to be higher among the young female population for all racial/ethnic groups. Lung cancer rates for both genders tend to decrease more among black and white people than among other racial and ethnic populations.
This study shows that lung cancer frequencies vary by subtype, sex, race/ethnicity, and age. “It is important to monitor these changes as clinical cancer experts diagnose lung cancer and offer treatment based on specific characteristics of the cancer,” said Dr. Denise Riedel Lewis, PhD, MPH, of the National Cancer Institute and lead author of this study, in the journal’s press release.
Smoking causes the majority of lung cancers in the US, and it now seems that different lung cancer percentages mirror the nation’s smoking habits, such as frequency, duration, or the actual composition of cigarettes, this way determining the levels of toxins that a person is exposed to. “These results can serve as a place marker for our population’s changing lung exposures,” Dr. Lewis added in the press release.
The current study contributes with improved clinical awareness and surveillance, essential for future studies in cancer risk and control.