Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in New York City. It usually does not show any symptoms until it has reached advanced cancer stages, so prevention and early detection are key to controlling the disease.

Each year in NYC, about 2,700 people die from lung cancer, and about 4,300 people receive a new lung cancer diagnosis. Lung cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, particularly people with a history of smoking. In NYC in 2016, White people had a higher death rate (32.4 deaths per 100,000 people) than Black people (28.7), Asian/Pacific Islanders (22.4) and Latinos (17.8).

Risk Factors

Smoking — including cigarettes, cigars and pipes — is a cause in more than 80% of lung cancer deaths. Even occasional smoking can increase your risk of getting lung cancer.

You also may be more at risk for lung cancer if you:

  • Are exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Are exposed to radon, a colorless and odorless naturally occurring gas that can be found in houses and buildings.
  • Are exposed to cancer-causing agents in the workplace, such as asbestos, uranium, arsenic and diesel exhaust.
  • Have a family history of lung cancer.
  • Have had previous radiation therapy near your lungs.
  • Take beta carotene supplements and smoke one or more packs of cigarettes a day.

Know your risk factors and try to address them where you can.

Reduce Your Risk

Not all lung cancers are preventable. However, if you smoke, quitting is an important way to reduce your risk.

To lower your risk of lung cancer:

  • If you smoke, make a plan to quit.
  • Reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Get your home checked for radon.
  • Protect yourself in the workplace if you are in contact with cancer-causing agents by following health and safety guidelines.


Screening can detect lung cancer before you start showing symptoms. Early detection may save your life. Discuss your concerns and smoking history with your health care provider.

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends an annual imaging test for lung cancer called low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) for anyone who meets all three of the following conditions:

  • Adult age 50 to 80
  • Smoker with a 20 "pack year" history of smoking
  • Current smoker or have quit within the past 15 years

You can calculate your pack years of smoking by taking the number of years you have smoked and multiplying it by the number of packs you smoked per day. For example, if you smoked one pack a day for 20 years, that is 20 pack years. If you smoked two packs a day for 10 years, that is also 20 pack years.

Your health care provider can help you figure out your pack years and if you should have this test.

If you are a provider, check out our list of sites that screen for lung cancer (PDF).


Most insurance plans cover cancer preventive services, such as LDCT, without a copay starting at age 55 to age 80. If you are between ages 50 and 54, coverage for screening varies. Consult with your health care provider about your lung cancer risk and with your insurer about your coverage before your screening test. If you do not have insurance, you may be eligible to sign up for low- or no-cost coverage. You can also get free in-person assistance signing up for a plan.

Additional Resources

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