Lung cancer mortality rates have surpassed, or are projected to surpass, breast cancer mortality rates among women in high-income countries by 2030, according to a study published in Cancer Research.

Although the incidence of breast cancer is higher than lung cancer, lung cancer has a worse prognosis and is among the leading causes of cancer death. Improved screening and preventative practices have improved breast cancer mortality significantly, but the trends in breast and lung cancer mortality require further study. 

For this study, researchers assessed cancer mortality data from the World Health Organization (WHO) database to project lung and breast cancer mortality in 52 countries until 2030. Age-standardized mortality rates (ASMR) — calculated per 100,000 person years — were reported for each country for 2015, 2020, 2025, and 2030. 

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Results showed that the median ASMR for lung cancer is projected to increase from 11.2 to 16.0, more than a 40% increase, between 2015 and 2030; the median ASMR of breast cancer however, is projected to decrease from 16.1 to 14.7. The ASMR is projected to decrease in 36 countries for breast cancer, and in 15 countries for lung cancer over this time period. 

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Further analysis revealed that the ASMR for lung cancer in half of the countries in the study, and in almost 75% of countries considered high-income, had exceeded or is projected to exceed the ASMR of breast cancer by 2030. 

Outcomes showed that lung cancer mortality exceeded breast cancer mortality more often in developed countries, most likely due to a downward trend due to improved screening and preventive methods in breast cancer, and also because developed countries have a higher prevalence of women who started smoking earlier. 

“Being that low dose computer tomography implementation is still a matter of debate and with breast cancer mortality decreasing, prevention efforts should focus on smoking avoidance and cessation,” concluded the authors.


Martin-Sanchez JC, Lunet N, Gonzalez-Marron A, et al. Projections in breast and lung cancer mortality among women: a Bayesian analysis of 52 countries worldwide[published online August 1, 2018]. Cancer Res.doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-0187