Global trends of lung cancer mortality and smoking prevalence

Farhad Islami, Lindsey A. Torre, Ahmedin Jemal


Lung cancer killed approximately 1,590,000 persons in 2012 and currently is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. There is large variation in mortality rates across the world in both males and females. This variation follows trend of smoking, as tobacco smoking is responsible for the majority of lung cancer cases. In this article, we present estimated worldwide lung cancer mortality rates in 2012 using the World Health Organization (WHO) GLOBOCAN 2012 and changes in the rates during recent decades in select countries using WHO Mortality Database. We also show smoking prevalence and trends globally and at the regional level. By region, the highest lung cancer mortality rates (per 100,000) in 2012 were in Central and Eastern Europe (47.6) and Eastern Asia (44.8) among males and in Northern America (23.5) and Northern Europe (19.1) among females; the lowest rates were in sub-Saharan Africa in both males (4.4) and females (2.2). The highest smoking prevalence among males is generally in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia and Eastern Europe, and among females is in European countries, followed by Oceania and Northern and Southern America. Many countries, notably high-income countries, have seen a considerable decrease in smoking prevalence in both males and females, but in many other countries there has been little decrease or even an increase in smoking prevalence. Consequently, depending on whether or when smoking prevalence has started to decline, the lung cancer mortality trend is a mixture of decreasing, stable, or increasing. Despite major achievements in tobacco control, with current smoking patterns lung cancer will remain a major cause of death worldwide for several decades. The main priority to reduce the burden of lung cancer is to implement or enforce effective tobacco control policies in order to reduce smoking prevalence in all countries and prevent an increase in smoking in sub-Saharan Africa and women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).