Lung cancer

Lung cancer graphicFind out more about lung cancer, including how common it is and ways to reduce your risk

On this page:

> How common is lung cancer?
> What are the risk factors associated with lung cancer?
> Our full infographic
> How can cut your risk of lung cancer?

How common is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. In 2019, 48,754 cases of lung cancer were diagnosed*. In women, lung cancer is the second most common cancer type, and lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men.

Lung cancer infographic thumbnail

> View our full-size infographic about lung cancer

What is the function of the lungs?

The lungs transfer oxygen into the blood when you breathe in and remove carbon dioxide from the blood when you breathe out.

Who is most at risk of lung cancer?

As with all cancers, the risk of developing lung cancer depends on a number of factors and varies from person to person.

Lifestyle risk factors

> Smoking tobacco

> Taking high-dose beta-carotene supplements (for smokers and ex-smokers)

Other risk factors

If any of these risk factors apply to you, it doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop lung cancer – it just means that your risk may be higher than average. The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Lung cancer infographic

How can you reduce your risk of lung cancer?

These steps are based on research from our Continuous Update Project (CUP).

Don’t smoke

Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer. Over 90% of cases in men and over 80% in women worldwide are due to tobacco use.

By far the most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke, or to give up smoking. If you do smoke, stopping smoking will reduce your risk. The NHS stop smoking service can help you quit.

Don’t take high dose beta-carotene supplements

Consuming high-dose beta carotene supplements can increase lung cancer risk in smokers and ex-smokers.

This is one of the reasons we recommend you do not rely on supplements for cancer prevention. In general, it’s best to get all the nutrients you need from a healthy balanced diet rather than from supplements.

However, dietary supplements, in addition to varied diets, may sometimes be beneficial for specific population groups or for individuals that have been given advice by an appropriately qualified health professional – for example, iron and folic acid supplements for women who are trying to conceive.

> Visit NHS Choices to find out about the symptoms and treatments of lung cancer

*Cancer statistics based on combined data from EnglandScotlandNorthern Ireland and Wales. World Cancer Research Fund, 2022.