Press release

Survival improving for lung cancer but the number of women diagnosed continues to rise

New NCIN data published today shows 1-year survival for lung cancer has improved significantly, yet female incidence rates have increased.

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Supporting the statistics presented at PHE’s Stoptober launch, new analysis from PHE’s National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) shows that the one year survival for lung cancer has improved significantly, but that incidence for women continues to rise.

Between 1990 and 2011, almost 720,000 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in England. During this time, the number of male lung cancer diagnoses declined, whereas the number of female lung cancer diagnoses increased.

The sharp decrease in the incidence of male lung cancer over the past 2 decades reflects the decline in smoking prevalence among men. However, due to the rise in women who took up smoking after World War 2, the incidence among women continues to increase.

Dr Mick Peake, Clinical Lead at Public Health England’s NCIN, said:

This report shows that we are gradually making inroads into improving the survival from this common cancer. The improvement in survival in lung cancer has been dramatic over the last 20 years with almost twice as many patients alive a year after diagnosis now as was the case in 1990. I think this reflects a combination of the better organisation of cancer services, the availability of better treatments and earlier diagnosis.

Our 1-year survival figures show that we are now approaching the outcomes those of other countries where the survival has historically been significantly better than in England. However, there is much more to be done for lung cancer patients with the majority still dying within a year of diagnosis.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said:

Smoking is one of the main causes of lung cancer, and survival, whilst improving, is very poor. This report shows that less than a third (30%) of people diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010 will survive the first year, and whilst we do not know yet how many of these will still be alive at 5 years, it is not likely to be greater than 10 or 11%.

Our Be Clear On Cancer Campaign led to around 700 extra patients being diagnosed with lung cancer - many at an early stage – and resulted in around 300 more patients getting surgery which gives them the best chance of prolonged survival. This is fantastic news, and we must do more and work with NHS England to work towards earlier diagnosis and better outcomes.

Notes to editors

  • Lung cancer is the second most common cancer after breast cancer and kills more people than any other cancer. Tobacco smoking is the main cause of lung cancer and about 90% of lung cancers can be attributed to it. More than 75% of lung cancer patients are aged 65 onwards.

  • NCIN’s Recent trends in lung cancer incidence, mortality and survival data briefing is available online. The data is based on all lung cancers diagnoses in England between 1990 and 2011.

  • Data extracted on lung cancer patient information from the Be Clear on Cancer Data Outcome report, derived from analysis of the 2013 National Lung Cancer Audit

  • About the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), operated by Public Health England: The NCIN was established in June 2008 to coordinate the collection, analysis and publication of comparative national statistics on diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for all types of cancer. The NCIN is a UK wide partnership funded by multiple stakeholders. The NCIN will drive improvements in the standards of care and clinical outcomes through exploiting data. The NCIN will support audit and research programmes by providing cancer information and patient care will be monitored through expert analyses of up-to-date statistics. For more information please visit and

  • Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.

Public Health England press office

Published 19 December 2013