Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLungCancerTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLungCancerTeam

Are Men More Likely To Be Diagnosed With Lung Cancer?

Posted on February 03, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Todd Gersten, M.D.
Article written by
Imee Williams

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women. However, slightly more men than women are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, and men have a greater risk (1 in 15 chance) of developing lung cancer in their lifetime than women (1 in 17 chance). The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 130,000 deaths from lung cancer in the United States in 2022. Of those, an estimated 68,820 people — just over 50 percent — will be male.

Although the incidence rates of lung cancer have decreased since the mid-2000s, there are notable sex-related differences in lung cancer prevalence, deaths, and survival rates.

Sex-Related Differences in Lung Cancer

The differences in lung cancer prevalence between men and women may be related to sex differences in smoking history and occupation.

Smoking History

Cigarette smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, increasing the risk of lung cancer development and death by 15 to 30 times. On average, men use more tobacco products (such as chewing tobacco, cigars, and pipes) and smoke cigarettes more frequently than women do — worldwide, about 35 percent of men smoke compared to 6 percent of women.

Men tend to smoke cigarettes at an earlier age, too. One study compared smoking prevalence in teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 across 61 countries. Researchers found that teenage boys were nearly twice as likely to smoke cigarettes than teenage girls.

Occupation

Some studies have found that certain types of occupations may increase the risk of exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) and may contribute to the development of lung cancer. These occupations — such as mining, painting, plumbing, welding, and construction, as well as jobs in iron, steel, and rubber factories — are typically male-dominated. Between 13 percent and 29 percent of lung cancer cases in men have been linked to exposure to carcinogens including asbestos, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, tar and soot, nickel, and many more. Exposure to these carcinogens can lead to lung cancer in people who have never smoked, and the risk increases in people who smoke currently or have a history of smoking.

Common Lung Cancers in Men vs. Women

Men are less likely to develop small cell lung cancers (SCLCs) but are more likely to develop a non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) called squamous cell carcinoma. This type of lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking. Men who smoke more than 30 cigarettes daily increase their risk of SCLC more than 100 times.

Women develop adenocarcinoma at higher rates, and adenocarcinomas are typically diagnosed at earlier stages and earlier in life. Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer in women and people who have never smoked.

Racial Disparities in Lung Cancer

There are racial disparities in lung cancer among Black and white men and women. Black men are almost 15 percent more likely than white men to develop lung cancer. However, Black men are less likely to develop SCLC than white men. In contrast, Black women are 14 percent less likely to develop lung cancer than white women.

Response to Treatment and Survival Rate

Responses to treatments and survival rates depend on many factors, such as the type of lung cancer and the stage of diagnosis.

Many studies have found that women tend to respond better to therapy than men, regardless of the type of lung cancer, stage of disease, or smoking history. In one study, female participants with stage 3B or stage 4 lung cancer undergoing platinum-based chemotherapy had about a 1.9-month greater survival rate than their male counterparts.

Researchers have also found sex-based differences in the five-year survival rates of lung cancer. In all types of lung cancer, men have a 17 percent survival rate, whereas women have a 24 percent survival rate.

Historically, men were more likely to develop lung cancer. However, trends have since changed in the United States and some European countries. The incidence rate (rate of new cases) of lung cancer among men has decreased since the 1990s. This change may be due to the initiation of smoking cessation programs and medical advances in diagnosis and treatment.

In the last five years, incidence rates have decreased by about 9.2 percent for men. In contrast, the rate has increased by 6 percent among women. Additionally, death rates for lung cancer (both SCLC and NSCLC) continue to decrease by nearly 5 percent each year for men.

There is a rising trend of lung cancer cases among women and people who have never smoked. Emerging evidence suggests that women are more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke than men are. This greater susceptibility may be due to specific genetic or biological factors. However, the underlying cause remains unknown. Carcinogen exposure within certain occupations that may be traditionally more women-dominated — such as hair styling, nail salon work, housecleaning, laundry or dry cleaning, and cooking — may also contribute to the increase of lung cancer cases among women.

Lung Cancer Symptoms in Men

Men and women experience similar symptoms in the same types of lung cancer. However, more men develop squamous cell lung cancer, which develops inside the airways in the lungs. Although similar symptoms also occur in other types of lung cancers, squamous cell lung cancer symptoms often develop before the tumor has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized).

Common symptoms can include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Recurring pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Coughing up bloody mucus
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling of the face and neck
  • Pain and weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Lung Cancer Prevention and Screening

There are many ways to decrease the risk of lung cancer:

  • Do not smoke, or quit smoking.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Check the radon levels in your home.
  • Avoid exposure to known carcinogens at work when you can.
  • Eat a well balanced, healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.

Lung cancer screening is recommended for adults ages 50 to 80 who have a history of smoking more than a pack a day for the last 20 years and currently smoke or have stopped smoking within the past 15 years.

Get Support From Others Who Understand

Talking to other people who understand what you are going through can be a great source of emotional support. MyLungCancerTeam is the social network for people with lung cancer and their loved ones. On MyLungCancerTeam, more than 5,100 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lung cancer.

Have something to add to the conversation? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Key Statistics for Lung Cancer — American Cancer Society
  2. Lung Cancer Fact Sheet — American Lung Association
  3. Lung Cancer — Small Cell: Statistics — Cancer.Net
  4. What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer? — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  5. Tobacco, Nicotine, and E-Cigarettes Research Report — Are There Gender Differences in Tobacco Smoking? — National Institute on Drug Abuse
  6. Who Smokes More, Men or Women? — Our World in Data
  7. Current Tobacco Smoking and Desire To Quit Smoking Among Students Aged 13–15 Years — Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 61 Countries, 2012–2015 — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  8. An Overview of Lung Cancer in Women and the Impact of Estrogen in Lung Carcinogenesis and Lung Cancer Treatment — Frontiers in Medicine
  9. Lung Cancer in Women — Lung Cancer: Targets and Therapy
  10. Gender Differences in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: A Population-Based Study — European Journal of Surgical Oncology
  11. Medical Follow-Up of Workers Exposed to Lung Carcinogens: French Evidence-Based and Pragmatic Recommendations — BMC Public Health
  12. Lung Cancer: Symptoms and Causes — Mayo Clinic
  13. Lung Cancer Prevention — National Cancer Institute
  14. Sex-Specific Trends in Lung Cancer Incidence and Survival: A Population Study of 40,118 Cases — Thorax
  15. What Is Lung Cancer? — American Cancer Society
  16. Cigarette Smoking and Lung Cancer — Relative Risk Estimates for the Major Histological Types From a Pooled Analysis of Case-Control Studies — International Journal of Cancer
  17. Gender-Specific Aspects of Epidemiology, Molecular Genetics, and Outcome: Lung Cancer — ESMO Open
  18. Squamous Cell Carcinoma — Beaumont
  19. Lung Cancer — Non-Small Cell: Statistics — Cancer.Net
  20. Lung Cancer: Screening — U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Todd Gersten, M.D. is a hematologist-oncologist at the Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute in Wellington, Florida. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Imee Williams is a freelance writer and Fulbright scholar, with a B.S. in neuroscience from Washington State University. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, you may be wondering if there’s a connection between...

Is There a Connection Between Alcohol and Lung Cancer?

If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, you may be wondering if there’s a connection between...
It’s common knowledge that smoking increases lung cancer risk, but what about indirect exposure...

Can Thirdhand Smoke Cause Lung Cancer? Risk Overview

It’s common knowledge that smoking increases lung cancer risk, but what about indirect exposure...
When a person receives a lung cancer diagnosis, their family members may worry they’re also at...

Is Lung Cancer Hereditary? Who’s at Risk and Prevention

When a person receives a lung cancer diagnosis, their family members may worry they’re also at...
About 1 in 15 men and 1 in 17 women develop lung cancer at some point in their lives. However,...

Lung Cancer and Ethnicity: Is Race a Risk Factor in Lung Cancer?

About 1 in 15 men and 1 in 17 women develop lung cancer at some point in their lives. However,...
People who don’t smoke but are exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke at home or in the workplace...

How Much Does Secondhand Smoke Increase Lung Cancer Risk?

People who don’t smoke but are exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke at home or in the workplace...
Lung cancer is diagnosed more than any other cancer in the world among men, and it’s the third...

How Does Air Pollution Affect Lung Cancer Risk?

Lung cancer is diagnosed more than any other cancer in the world among men, and it’s the third...

Recent articles

Stem cell therapies are new and exciting cancer treatments that have gained attention for their...

What To Know About Stem Cell Treatment for Lung Cancer

Stem cell therapies are new and exciting cancer treatments that have gained attention for their...
Imaging studies are an important part of diagnosing most forms of cancer, including all types of...

What Does a CT Scan Show About Lung Cancer? Diagnosis, Accuracy, and Results

Imaging studies are an important part of diagnosing most forms of cancer, including all types of...
Many people use radiation therapy as a part of their lung cancer treatment plan. Radiation...

Radiation for Lung Cancer: What To Expect and Side Effects

Many people use radiation therapy as a part of their lung cancer treatment plan. Radiation...
It is not uncommon to have more than one disease at the same time, especially when one of those...

Cushing’s Syndrome and Lung Cancer: What’s the Connection?

It is not uncommon to have more than one disease at the same time, especially when one of those...
As part of the diagnostic process for lung cancer, a doctor might discuss cancer cell grading....

Lung Cancer Grading: How Cancer Cells Look and Behave Compared With Normal Cells

As part of the diagnostic process for lung cancer, a doctor might discuss cancer cell grading....
Life with lung cancer involves appointments with many specialists for treatment and support....

Lung Cancer Specialists: What To Expect at Pulmonologist and Oncologist Visits

Life with lung cancer involves appointments with many specialists for treatment and support....
MyLungCancerTeam My lung cancer Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close