Lung cancer mortality projected to decrease by 79 percent from 2015 to 2065

Age-adjusted lung cancer mortality in the United States is estimated to decrease by 79 percent between 2015 and 2065, according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. However, the authors noted, millions of lung cancer deaths are still projected during that time, making it especially important to emphasize screening in the years ahead.

“Projections of the future burden of smoking and lung cancer can serve as a point of reference as new developments take place that could influence risk, such as changes to patterns of lung cancer screening or increased use of e-cigarettes and other novel nicotine products,” wrote Jihyoun Jeon, PhD, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues. “Future assessments of the effect of new prevention and treatment strategies require such status quo estimates as a basis for comparison.”

Four different simulation models of the natural history of lung cancer were developed by investigators from four institutions: the University of Michigan, Georgetown University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and Yale University. The groups collaborated “to establish common model inputs and define model analyses and scenarios.” Each simulation model projected under the assumption that current decreases in smoking would continue into the future.

Overall, age-adjusted lung cancer mortality is projected to decrease by 79 percent between 2015 and 2065. The annual number of lung cancer deaths is projected to decrease from 135,000 to 50,000, a reduction of 63 percent.

“The large reduction in lung cancer mortality during the next half-century will occur largely because of the lower initiation rates in current cohorts, leading to lower smoking prevalence at older ages, when lung cancer risk is greatest,” the authors wrote.

Jeon and colleagues added that 4.4 million lung cancer deaths are still projected to occur from 2015 to 2065.

“Most of these will be among ever-smokers, highlighting the need for additional efforts, such as lung cancer screening, to further reduce the burden of lung cancer,” the authors wrote.

The researchers pointed out that their study was limited by assumptions the team had to make about smoking trends throughout the United States. Changes in smoking rates could occur with the introduction of e-cigarettes, for instance, though such changes would likely not impact lung cancer rates for decades. Another limitation was that the study did not “explicitly consider the potent effect of lung cancer screening," the authors wrote.