What Is Lung Cancer?

Although lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. in both men and women, both the occurrence of lung cancer and the deaths related to it can be reduced. More than four out of every five cases of lung cancer are associated with cigarette smoking. The cause-and-effect relationship has been extensively documented. During the 1920s, large numbers of men began to smoke cigarettes, presumably in response to increased advertising. Twenty years later, the frequency of lung cancer in men climbed sharply. In the 1940s, significantly more women became smokers. Twenty years later, there was a similar dramatic increase in lung cancer among women.

Lung tumors usually start in the spongy, pinkish gray walls of the bronchi – the tubular, branching airways of the lungs or the air sacs called alveoli. More than 20 types of malignant tumors that originate in the lung itself -- primary lung cancer -- have been identified. The major types are small-cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer. The more common non-small variety is primarily divided into squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large-cell carcinoma.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on July 11, 2018



FDA Office of Women's Health: "Lung Cancer."

National Cancer Institute: "What You Need to Know About Lung Cancer."

JAMA: "JAMA Patient Page: Lung Cancer."

NIHSeniorHealth: "Lung Cancer."



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