Americans More Likely To Survive Lung Cancer Than Ever Before—But Black And Latino Patients Still Disproportionately Dying

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The national survival rate for lung cancer has risen 5 percentage points in the last five years, but people of color are still at a higher risk than their white counterparts of dying from the third most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Lung Association’s latest State of Lung Cancer report.

The report, released Thursday, shows the overall survival rate for lung cancer has increased nationally to 26.6%, up from 21.7% five years ago and the highest it’s ever been.

Of the 42 states with trackable survival rates, those who live in Rhode Island are the most likely to live through the disease (the state has a 33.3% survival rate), and those in Oklahoma are the least likely—only 21.2% of people in the state will survive their lung cancer diagnosis.

Utah and New Mexico have the lowest rate of new lung cancer cases in the country and Kentucky and West Virginia have the highest, which researchers attribute to risk factors including smoking, exposure to radon gas, air pollution and secondhand smoke.

Black people are 16% less likely to live for five years after their lung cancer diagnosis than white patients because they’re 15% less likely to receive an early diagnosis, 19% less likely to receive surgical treatment and 11% more likely to not receive any treatment, the research showed.

Latino people are 9% less likely to hit the five-year survival milestone than white people, but those of Asian descent are 14% more likely to survive five years because they’re more likely to receive surgical treatment for the disease.

While lung cancer screenings can reduce the death rate by up to 20%, only 4.5% of high-risk individuals were screened, the report found—Massachusetts has the best screening rate at 11.9% and California has the worst at 0.7%.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 238,340 new cases of lung cancer nationwide by the end of 2023, and 127,070 people are expected to die from the disease this year. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older, and the society estimates slightly more women will be diagnosed this year than men, but more men will die. Lung cancer accounts for about 1 in 5 of all American cancer deaths, and more people die each year than those with colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Lung cancer is treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The FDA last year approved a treatment that combines chemotherapy and immunotherapy in patients before surgery, which John Hopkins Medicine called a “new hope” for patients. The average life expectancy for patients has tripled in recent years, and 10 new drugs were approved for lung cancer in 2021.

2. Someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with lung cancer every two minutes, the new report says.

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