Smoking-related lung cancer rates are expected to drop dramatically over the next 50 years, but lung cancer will continue to be a significant health problem in the United States, says University of Michigan researcher. The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Under the most optimistic scenario, rates could drop by 81%, while under the most pessimistic scenario, rates would fall by 75% from 2015 to 2065. Rafael Meza, associate professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, and colleagues at the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network used four independent models to project lung cancer rates for US men and women aged 30 to 84 from 1964 to 2065.

All models projected the impact of changes in smoking prevalence since the 1960s on past and future lung cancer mortality. They found that future smoking and lung cancer rates and deaths will continue to decrease.

The study, he said, did not consider any potential changes in smoking prevalence that might occur due to the adoption of e-cigarettes or polytobacco use. According to the findings:

  1. The number of annual deaths (in those aged 30 to 84) will decrease from 135,000 in 2015 to 50,000 in 2065.
  2. Despite those gains, there will be 4.4 million deaths from lung cancer in the US from 2015 to 2065.
  3. Lung cancer will remain a significant health problem in the US, with an increasing number and proportion occurring among those who have never smoked.

Risk Of Lung Cancer

The study demonstrates that tobacco control is helping to reduce the burden of lung cancer in the US but also that smoking will continue to be an important determinant of lung cancer risk during this century.

Even though lung cancer death rates among never smokers are expected to remain roughly the same in the future, the proportion of never smokers will grow in the US population, which will result in a greater portion of lung cancer deaths to come from never smokers.

This highlights the need for new research on lung cancer risk among never smokers and for the development of prevention strategies geared towards them. Meza says that continued policies and measures to discourage the uptake of smoking in youth and to promote cessation in current smokers are needed to retain and expand the gains that have already been made.

Lung Cancer Rates

Tobacco control efforts implemented since the 1960s will continue to reduce lung cancer rates well into the next half-century. Additional prevention and cessation efforts will be required to sustain and expand these gains to further reduce the lung cancer burden in the United State .