Which Country Has The Highest Rate Of Lung Cancer?

A cigaretteCurrently Hungary has the dubious honour of having the highest age standardised rate (ASR) of lung cancer in the world for men and the highest rate overall. At more than 50 cases per 100,000 people per year, Hungary’s lung cancer rate is more than twice the global average. The United States has the highest rate of lung cancer among women and the second highest rate overall. The following table shows the fifteen countries with the highest rates of lung cancer in the world (excludes countries with less than 1 million people).

Country ASR (per 100,000)
 Hungary  52.0
 Untied States Of America  42.1
 Poland  40.9
 Serbia  40.7
 Denmark  38.4
 Armenia  37.6
 The Netherlands  36.0
 Canada  35.9
 Belgium  35.5
 Croatia  34.1
 Czech Republic  34.0
 China  33.5
 Slovenia  33.3
 Cuba  31.6
 United Kingdom  31.3

Chart courtesy of GLOBOCAN, 2008 (http://globocan.iarc.fr)

The list is dominated by highly developed countries. This is likely due to a combination of  under-reporting in poorer countries and lower smoking rates overall due to tobacco products being too expensive for the average person.

Hungary has the highest per capita level of cigarette consumption in the world so the high rate of lung cancer is no surprise. A Hungarian man has a 9.6% chance of developing lung cancer by the age of 75.

Interestingly Japan has a relatively low lung cancer rate of 24.6 per 100,000 – one of the lowest rates in the developed world. This is despite the prevalence of smoking in Japan being significantly higher than the rate in the United States. In 2008, 37% of Japanese men and 9% of Japanese women were regular smokers compared to 24% of men and 17% of women in the USA.

The reasons for the relatively low lung cancer rate in Japan are unknown but could involve a combination of diet (more fish, less red meat, and more fruit and vegetables than the typical “Western” diet), differences in the levels of carcinogens in Japanese cigarettes (some studies have suggested lower concentrations of carcinogenic compounds), or genetic factors in the Japanese ethnic group that decrease susceptibility to lung cancer.

Mortality rates due to lung cancer are similar to incidence rates however the United States falls to #8 on the list because of higher health care standards than most other countries on the list. The following chart shows the fifteen countries with the highest age standardized death rates from lung cancer.

Country ASR (per 100,000)
 Hungary  46.0
 Serbia 36.7
 Armenia  35.8
 Poland  34.9
 Denmark  34.6
 Croatia  31.4
 The Netherlands  30.7
 United States Of America  30.4
 Canada  29.9
 Cuba  29.1
 Belgium  29.1
 China  28.7
 Slovenia  28.0
 Czech Republic  27.6
 Albania  27.0

Chart courtesy of GLOBOCAN, 2008 (http://globocan.iarc.fr)

Malawi has the lowest reported rate of lung cancer in the world with just 52 new diagnoses and 47 deaths from lung cancer in 2008 from a population of 15 million however given that Malawi is one of the least developed countries and has just 0.02 doctors per 1,000 people, the true lung cancer rate is almost certainly much higher.

Lung cancer caused 1.4 million deaths worldwide in 2008 accounting for 18.4% of all cancer deaths for that year. Heavy smokers (5+ cigarettes per day) have a more than 20% lifetime risk of developing lung cancer while non smokers have just a 0.3% chance of developing the disease.

Complete incidence and mortality tables can be found on the GLOBOCAN website.