Lung cancer in women and men

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by

Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on September 12, 2022.

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in both men and women (excepting skin cancer), according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Only prostate cancer is more common for men, and breast cancer is more common for women.

However, lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death for both genders by far compared with other cancers. Below is a look at the statistics.

  • An estimated 116,310 men and 118,270 women are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2023, according to the ACS, with an estimated 65,790 deaths among men and 59,280 among women.
  • The number of patients diagnosed with lung cancer has decreased steadily over the past several years, according to the ACS, largely due to a decline in smoking.
  • Women tend to be diagnosed at an earlier age than men.
  • Women who develop lung cancer before menopause are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced disease. (They also are more likely to have cancer that has spread and a poorer prognosis.)

Types of lung cancer in women and men

The types of lung cancer differ among women and men as well:

  • Women tend to develop non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) more than men.
  • Women are more likely to be diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma than men (adenocarcinoma is a type of NSCLC that isn’t necessarily associated with smoking).
  • Female nonsmokers are more likely than male nonsmokers to be diagnosed with the lung cancer subtype bronchioalveolar carcinoma.
  • Women who have lung cancer are more likely to live longer than men.
  • Women who undergo surgery for some lung cancers, including NSCLC, also live longer than men. Women have a better response to chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer than men do.
  • Men are more likely to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma than women.

Symptoms of lung cancer in women and men

The signs and symptoms for lung cancer are similar for men and women and may vary depending on where the cancer forms. 

For example, squamous cell carcinoma forms on the lining of the lungs. Signs of this type of cancer include:

  • Chest pain
  • Recurrent or worsening cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bloody cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling in the face and neck veins

In addition to the symptoms above, adenocarcinoma, which typically forms in the outer areas of the lung, may also cause back pain, especially in women.

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Show references
  • American Cancer Society (2024, January 29). Key Statistics for Lung Cancer.
  • Barrera-Rodriguez R, Morales-Fuentes J. (2012). Lung cancer: targets and therapy. Lung Cancer in Women. 3, 79-89.
  • Chakraborty S, Ganti AK, Marr A, Batra SK. (2010, August 4). Lung cancer in women: role of estrogens. Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine. (4): 509–518

Learn more about lung cancer

Screening and imaging tests are important for early detection of lung cancer.

How is lung cancer diagnosed? 

Smoking tobacco is the number one cause of lung cancer. Learn about this and other risk factors.

What causes lung cancer and increases risk? 

Lung cancer treatment options will vary by the type of cancer.

What are the lung cancer treatment options?