In the United States, the 20th century witnessed the emergence of a lung cancer epidemic that peaked and began to decline by the century's end, a decline that continues today. However, lung cancer continues to be an unabating pandemic. In research carried out over the last half of the 20th century, many factors were causally associated with lung cancer and studies were implemented to identify determinants of susceptibility to these factors. Cigarette smoking was identified as the single most predominant cause of the lung cancer epidemic, but other causes were found, including workplace agents (eg, asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, and radon) and other environmental factors (passive smoking, indoor radon, and air pollution). Contemporary epidemiologic research on lung cancer now focuses on a new set of issues, primarily related to susceptibility to the well-identified causal factors, particularly smoking, and on the consequences of changes in tobacco products for risks to smokers. Diet and the possibility of reducing risk through chemoprevention remain a focus of research emphasis through experimental and observational approaches. Questions have also been raised about possible differences in susceptibility to lung cancer by sex and race. Population patterns in smoking prevalence will continue to be the most powerful predictor of the future occurrence of lung cancer. Evaluation of recent US patterns in smoking prevalence indicates that for the next approximately 10 to 15 years, lung cancer rates will decrease, but will then level off starting in approximately 2030. Unless further reductions in the prevalence of cigarette smoking are achieved over the next decade, lung cancer will remain as an all too common, but avoidable, disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research