Many smokers never get lung cancer, but then again, most lung cancer patients are smokers.

Furthermore, if smokers lived longer, it’s fair to wonder how many would have eventually developed lung cancer.

The life expectancy of a long-term smoker, vs. a never-smoker, is at least 10 years shorter, says the Centers for Disease Control. That’s a lot of years that lung cancer could have developed.

Remember, smoking doesn’t just kill via lung cancer; it also causes emphysema and heart disease.

According to the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program, 26.7% of new lung cancer diagnoses occur in people 75 to 84.

Many smokers die from respiratory illness or heart disease before age 70 – which is the mean age of diagnosis for lung cancer.

A Surgeon Explains How Many of His Lung Cancer Patients Were Smokers

“For any particular surgeon this number would vary depending on their referral population,” says Alex Little, MD, a thoracic surgeon with a special interest in esophageal and lung cancer, and clinical professor at the University of Arizona.

“In my case it was certainly in excess of 90%,” continues Dr. Little.

“I don’t have access to my records so I can’t provide an exact number. The number would never be less than 80%.

“Another important observation is the percentage of patients who resume smoking after a lung operation for lung cancer.

“I don’t know the answer, but my 40-year experience was that it did occur and, of course, put them on course for a second cancer. Addiction to smoking is hard to overcome.”

Dr. Little trained in general and thoracic surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; has been active in national thoracic surgical societies as a speaker and participant, and served as president of the American College of Chest Physicians.
Sources:
cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/index.htm
seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html