Half a Million Fewer Lung Cancer Deaths in 40 Years


Lung cancer deaths in men have dropped by nearly 60% over the last 40 years.

Awareness of the dangers of tobacco, smoking bans and advertising restrictions, which have led to a reduction in the number of people who smoke, is the biggest reason for the decline.

Cancer deaths

Lung cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer in the UK, accounting for 21% of all cancer deaths.

The disease mainly affects older people and is rare in people under the age of 40. Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer – 72% of cases are attributed to smoking. An estimated 86% of deaths due to lung cancer are thought to be caused by smoking.

Mortality rates

Cancer Research UK found that since 1979, there have been 500,000 fewer deaths in men from lung cancer than would have been expected if the mortality rate had stayed the same. This is a drop of almost 60%.

In the UK, 79% of lung cancer cases are preventable, with stopping smoking being the main way to prevent the disease. Air pollution (8%) and exposure to certain chemicals in the workplace (13%) are also preventable causes of lung cancer.

The risk of lung cancer increases with the amount of cigarettes people smoke and how many years they have smoked for.

Increased awareness

Increased awareness of smoking causing lung cancer is the main reason that deaths have fallen. It was in the 1950s that doctors first found evidence of a link between smoking and lung cancer, and it was 1962 when the Royal College of Physicians called for restrictions in cigarette advertising, higher taxation on cigarettes, and restrictions on sales of cigarettes to children.

In the 1970s, bans on cigarette advertising and health warnings on cigarette packets were introduced, and in the 1980s bans were implemented on smoking on public transport. In 2007, a ban on smoking in public places in the UK was introduced, and in 2016, standardised packaging for cigarettes were introduced.

Smoking reduction

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK said: “Following on from decades of research it’s fantastic to see the number of men dying from lung cancer falling year on year. Cancer Research UK helped prove the link between tobacco and cancer and the reduction in the number of people who smoke has prevented millions of deaths worldwide.”


This article was written by a third party source and does not reflect the views or opinions of Ramsay Health Care unless explicitly stated.

Additional comments on the page from individual Consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Consultants or Ramsay Health Care.

Related stories:

Share this article