Most Younger Adults With Lung Cancer Diagnosed at Later Stages

Jim Kling

August 17, 2022

Advances have been made in earlier diagnosis and better overall survival among older patients with lung cancer, but younger adults have not experienced the same benefit, according to a new study.

The improvements in patients aged 55-80 are likely associated with the introduction in 2013 of low dose computed tomography lung cancer screening. 

“It was unknown whether young adults diagnosed with lung cancer, who are ineligible for screening, have experienced a similar shift to earlier stages of lung cancer. While previous studies have shown that young adults diagnosed with lung cancer have distinct tumor characteristics and survival compared to older adults diagnosed with lung cancer, no study has examined whether recent improvements in early diagnosis and survival among older adults with lung cancer extend to younger adults diagnosed with lung cancer,” study coauthor Alexandra Potter told this news organization.

Study Methodology

The researchers analyzed data from the United States Cancer Statistics (USCS) database and the National Cancer Database (NCDB). They included patients aged 20-79 diagnosed with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) between 2010 and 2018. The study included 1,328 individuals aged 20-29, 5,682 men and women aged 30-39, 39,323 individuals aged 40-49, 202,709 aged 50-59, 410,482 aged 60-69, and 447,366 aged 70-79.

Stage IV diagnoses were most common in the youngest group (76% versus 8% stage I), and steadily declined with age 30-39 (70% versus 10%), age 40-49 (60% versus 14%), 50-59 (52%versus 19%), 60-69 (45% versus 25%), and 70-79 (40% versus 25%; P < .001). The trend reversed among patients aged 80-89, with 45% of patients diagnosed with stage IV cancer, though the rising trend of stage I diagnoses continued at 29%. Between 2010 and 2018, there was a statistically significant increase in stage IV diagnoses among those aged 40-49, and a decrease among those aged 50-59, 60-69, and 70-79.

Five-year overall survival was lowest among patients aged 20-29 at 20%. It was 27%-28% among each 10-year age group up to age 69, then dropped to 24% among those aged 70-79 (P < .001).

The study was limited by a lack of data on disease-free or recurrence-free survival, as well as use of biomarkers or targeted therapy. Ms. Potter has no relevant financial disclosures. The conference was sponsored by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.

This story originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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