Health Awareness

5 facts about lung cancer

What everyone needs to know about one of the most common types of cancer

November 3, 2023

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In 2020, it was estimated that more than 2 million people were diagnosed with lung cancer, changing their lives and setting them on a path that they likely didn’t anticipate and that no one wants to travel. MSD is fighting for these patients and their families by advancing research and fostering greater awareness and understanding of the disease.

Here are five facts about lung cancer that we think everyone needs to know.


Every person with lung cancer deserves compassion and support.

People with lung cancer may face social stigma if they have smoked in the past. But, the truth is, there is no room for blame. Every person diagnosed with lung cancer experiences similar kinds of challenges as anyone who learns they have cancer. People with lung cancer are worthy of all the compassion and support their families, care teams and the wider cancer community can provide to help them stand against this disease.

Caregiver holding patient's hand


It takes a village to navigate life with lung cancer.

When coping with a lung cancer diagnosis, it’s important to build a circle of support that includes the oncologist, health care teams, family and friends.

Connecting with others can provide a sense of support and comfort to help patients through everything that goes into managing this disease.

“Life for people with lung cancer seems like it’s completely broken and changed – days are full of doctor appointments and tests. Living with lung cancer seems to become the new normal.”

Dr. Cathy Pietanza, an oncologist and distinguished scientist at MSD Research Laboratories


There’s no one type of person who develops lung cancer.

Lung cancer strikes both men and women. While it is mostly diagnosed in older people, younger people can develop the disease. In fact, in 2020, more than 285,000 cases of lung cancer were estimated to be diagnosed worldwide among people 54 years and younger.

Crowded street downtown


There are multiple risk factors for lung cancer, including some outside our control.

Smoking is the greatest risk factor for developing lung cancer, but there are others as well, including having a family history of the disease and exposure to certain environmental substances.

Environmental risks include

  • Radon gas
  • Exposure to asbestos, second-hand smoke and other carcinogens in the air, such as arsenic, chromium and nickel


Scientific advances are making an impact in lung cancer.

Over the past decade, scientific advances have helped lead to more survivors.

Researcher in lab coat

View infographic


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American Cancer Society. Lung cancer risk factors. Available at: Accessed on: 1 October 2019

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American Lung Association. Your lung cancer team. Available at: Accessed on: 22 November 2022

Febbraro M, Gheware A, Kennedy T, Jain D, de Moraes FY, Juergens R. Barriers to access: global variability in implementing treatment advances in lung cancer. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. 2022;42:1-7. doi:10.1200/EDBK_351021

WHO Global Cancer Observatory Estimated age-standardized incidence rates (world) in 2020, world, females, all ages (excl. NMSC). Available at: Accessed on: 9 December 2022

WHO Global Cancer Observatory Estimated number of incident cases worldwide, both sexes, ages 0-54. Available at: Accessed on: 18 November 2022

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GO2 For Lung Cancer. Available at: Accessed on: 18 November 2022

TAPS Approval No: NP20080 NZ-NON-00404 Last Updated on October 2023