August 1st Marks the 6th Annual World Lung Cancer Day — The Leading Cancer Killer in the USA

Get Involved! Join ADAO and Less Cancer for a World Lung Cancer Day Twitter Chat Aug. 1!

Posted on July 28, 2017

August 1 marks the 6th annual World Lung Cancer Day (WLCD) to honor, commemorate, and support the people affected by lung cancer.

The lung cancer facts are staggering. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 1.7 million new cases in 2015, and is responsible for nearly one in six cancer deaths globally. Lung cancer claims more lives yearly than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer also remains the leading cancer killer for both men and women in the United States. Last year, an estimated 158,000 Americans died of this preventable disease. In 2017, the American Cancer Society estimates that ~156,000 will die due to lung cancer.

While there has been a slight drop in the number of lung cancer-related deaths since its peak in 2005 (159,292 deaths), the number of newly diagnosed cases are on the rise. In 2016, 224,390 Americans were diagnosed with lung cancer — about 10,000 more cases since 2014. In the next two decades, the WHO expects the number of new cases to rise by about 70%.

Although promising research continues, over half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. What can be done to improve detection and treatment?

  • More research dollars. Even though lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, only 6% of federal research dollars spent on cancer research are directed specifically to lung cancer. In a video from our 2017 Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference found below, an occupational medicine physician and professor, Dr. Steven Markowitz, MD, DrPH, discusses low-dose CT scans, a new and accepted screening test that research has shown to improve early detection and treatment. An increase in funds for research is crucial to help improve screening and treatment.
  • Education. It’s important for people to know how to detect risk factors and to ask their doctors about screening. Knowledge around smoking cessation programs, clinical trials, and new developments around treatment must be widespread as well.
  • Eliminate the stigma. While smoking is one of the main causes of lung cancer, around 14 percent of cases are in non-smokers. Exposure to radon, secondhand smoke, pollution and workplace exposures to chemicals, like asbestos, also cause lung cancer. Changing the perception of lung cancer can lead to greater support and funding, which may increase survival rates by making treatment manageable.

If you’ve been exposed to asbestos — stop smoking. According to the World Cancer Research Foundation UK has shown that “nonsmoking asbestos workers are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers not exposed to asbestos; if they also smoke, the risk factor jumps to 50 or higher.”

People often ask me — What’s the difference between mesothelioma and lung cancer?

Although both cancers can develop after asbestos exposure, mesothelioma is not lung cancer. Mesothelial tumors can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). The cancerous form is called “malignant mesothelioma.”

Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer that arises in tissues that line certain organs of the body, most frequently the chest cavity surrounding the lungs, abdominal cavity surrounding our abdominal organs, the tissue sack surrounding the heart, or testicles.

The mesothelium helps protect your organs by making a special lubricating fluid that allows organs to move. For example, this fluid makes it easier for your lungs to move (expand and contract) inside the chest when you breathe. The mesothelium has different names in different parts of the body:

  • The pleura surrounds the lungs and the cavity containing the lungs in the chest.
  • The peritoneum envelopes the abdominal cavity and many of the organs within that cavity.
  • The tunica vaginalis comprise a layer of the testicles.
  • The pericardium coats the heart and creates the cavity that holds the heart in the chest.

Join ADAO for a World Lung Cancer Day Twitter Chat on August 1 to raise awareness and action to prevent asbestos exposure to eliminate all asbestos-caused diseases. Follow the #WLCD to join in, and find more details in our Twitter Chat blog.

Together, change is possible.

Linda Reinstein

Dr. Steven Markowitz discusses low-dose CT scans at our 2017 conference.
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