Summary and Further Reading

Chapter 1 - Epidemiology, Pathogenesis, and Risk Factors


  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide in both genders, surpassing prostate and breast cancer mortality
  • US incidence rates in both genders increased until the 1990s and began to decline later, similar to the trend in mortality
  • In Europe, lung cancer-related deaths for women are secondary only to breast cancer and, differently to the US scenario, the mortality rate continues to increase
  • Worldwide, every year, as many people die from lung cancer as from the other “big killers” (prostate, breast, and colon cancer) combined together
  • Only 15% of all lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage, while the majority present with distant metastases at diagnosis with a 5-year survival rate of about 4%
  • Median age at diagnosis is 71 years and adenocarcinoma is nowadays the most prevalent histotype
  • Lung cancer may arise from all the differentiated and undifferentiated cells of the upper and lower airways, and the formation of DNA adducts as a consequence of the inhalation of carcinogens plays a central role in lung cancer pathogenesis
  • Lung cancer pathogenesis is also affected by a genetic multifactorial susceptibility, which may be further influenced by exposure to certain carcinogens
  • Smoking is the principal risk factor for lung cancer: long-term smokers have a 10- to 30-fold higher risk compared with non-smokers
  • Non-smoking-related risk factors include occupational exposure to carcinogens, second-hand smoke, pollution, dietary factors, radon exposure, and genetic susceptibility to cancer

Further Reading

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Last update: 16 September 2014
Summary and Further Reading
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