Lung Cancer Awareness: Progress Against A Major Killer


November is a good time to take a look at the progress against lung cancer—because one of the most important events of the year to reduce the disease occurs during the third Thursday of the month.

November 20th is The Great American Smokeout, one of the most visible national events that calls attention to the link between cancer and smoking. The Smokeout encourages smokers to use that date to either start a plan to quit, or to use that day as their actual date for quitting. Smokers who quit—even those who don’t quit permanently—can reduce their risk for cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. The ACS notes that about 42 million Americans—nearly one in five adults—still smoke cigarettes. There are also over 13 million cigar smokers, and over two million pipe smokers—all of whom have greater risk for lung cancer.

The ACS estimates that 224,210 adults (116,000 men and 108,210 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. It is the second most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Nearly 160,000 Americans will die from lung cancer this year.

Lung cancer makes up 13% of all cancer diagnoses, but 27% of all cancer deaths. Survival rates are lower than other cancers—significantly lower in many cases. The one year survival rate for all people with lung cancer is 43%. The five-year survival rate is only 17%.

But there is some good news. Death rates have declined consistently for more than 20 years, in part from better treatments and in part from declines in smoking. In the 1960s, more than 42% of American adults were smokers. In 2013, the smoking rate dipped—after a stall of seven years—to just 18%. This is in part to more aggressive communications efforts (funded from tobacco industry settlements) and more graphic depictions of the consequences of smoking. This year, one anti-smoking group, announced that teen smoking rates in Florida have dropped to just 7.5% (compared to an national average of 15%). Programs are working.

And venerable programs like the Great American Smokeout reinforce the fact that it’s never too late to make a change. When a smoker quits, improvements begin almost immediately:

In 20 minutes, blood pressure and heart rates drop

In 12 hours, blood carbon monoxide levels drop to normal levels

Within 2 weeks, lung function can begin to improve

Within 9 months, cilia in lung begin to function again, cleaning the lungs and reducing shortness of breath

Within 10 years, the risk of dying of lung cancer is lowered to that of a nonsmoker.

Learn more about The Great American Smokeout at And by all means, encourage your smoker friends to consider participating.

Emergent Technologies’ portfolio companies are involved in a number of innovative cancer treatments that may improve survival rates for lung cancer. But we’d rather see people avoid the actions that could cause the disease in the first place.

What do you want to build today?