A new report released by the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, shows significant progress is being made to prevent lung cancer, advance early detection and improve treatments.
The annual report – Canadian Cancer Statistics 2023 – found that lung cancer death rates are decreasing, with the largest annual decline in mortality rates across all cancer types in recent years.
Data shows that between 2015 and 2020, lung cancer death rates have decreased, on average, by 4.3% per year since 2014 for males and 4.1% per year since 2016 for females. In both sexes, it has decreased by 3.8% per year since 2015. This highlights the fastest decline in lung cancer mortality rates reported in Canada to date.
Lung cancer death rates are improving significantly due to a reduction in commercial tobacco use, which is the leading risk factor for the disease. Around 72% of lung cancer cases in Canada are due to smoking tobacco.
“Canada has some of the best tobacco regulations in the world, and they are making an impact,” says Dr Jennifer Gillis, Senior Manager of Surveillance at CCS. “Over 50,000 cancer cases could be prevented in Canada by 2042 if we reduce smoking prevalence to 5% by 2035.”
According to Statistics Canada, in 1965 half of Canadians (49.5%) smoked tobacco. As of 2023, 10.2% of the total population aged 15 and older smoke.
Beyond tobacco, there are other risk factors like radon gas, asbestos, air pollution and certain workplace exposures that can increase a person’s risk of lung cancer.
Over the last 30 years, research advancements have helped to improve survival by finding lung cancer earlier when the disease is most treatable, explored minimally invasive surgeries with shorter recovery times, and implemented precision medicine therapies and immunotherapies that use the body’s own immune system. These advances are saving lives.
Despite this progress, lung cancer is still expected to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada. In 2023, an estimated 31,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease. Lung cancer also remains the leading cause of cancer death, responsible for about 1 in 4 cancer deaths among people in Canada.
Greater investments in advocacy and research are needed to better understand the full spectrum of lung cancer risks, prevent future lung cancer cases, engage in early detection opportunities and develop more effective treatment options.
“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada, yet it surprisingly receives less funds when compared to other cancer types,” says Dr Gillis. “By investing more into lung cancer research, we gain critical insights about lung cancer and disease progression that will enable us to develop better treatments for lung cancer patients.”
To read the report, visit cancer.ca/statistics.