Health awareness

5 facts about lung cancer

What everyone needs to know about one of the most common types of cancer

February 18, 2021

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In 2021, an estimated 236,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer, upending their lives and setting them on a path that they likely didn’t anticipate and that no one wants to travel. Merck is fighting for these patients and their families, advancing research and fostering greater awareness and understanding of the disease.

Here are five facts about lung cancer that we think everyone needs to know.


Every person with lung cancer deserves compassion and support.

People with lung cancer can face social stigma. But, the truth is, there is no room for blame. Every person diagnosed with lung cancer experiences similar kinds of challenges as anyone who learns they have cancer. People with lung cancer are worthy of all the compassion and support their families, care teams and the wider cancer community can provide to help them stand against this disease.

Caregiver holding patient's hand


It takes a village to navigate life with lung cancer.

When coping with a lung cancer diagnosis, it’s important to build a circle of support that includes the oncologist and heath care teams, family and friends.

Connecting with others can provide a sense of support and comfort to help patients through everything that goes into managing this disease.

"Life for people with lung cancer seems like it’s completely broken and changed – days are full of doctor appointments and tests. Living with lung cancer seems to become the new normal."

Dr. Cathy Pietanza, an oncologist and distinguished scientist at Merck Research Laboratories


There’s no one type of person who develops lung cancer.

Lung cancer strikes both men and women and people of all ages. While it is mostly diagnosed in adults 65 years and older, younger adults can develop the disease. In fact, 10% of lung cancer cases occur in people under the age of 55.

Crowded street downtown


There are multiple risk factors for lung cancer, including some outside our control.

Smoking is the greatest risk factor for developing lung cancer, but there are others as well, including having a family history of the disease and exposure to certain environmental substances.

Environmental risks include

  • Radon gas
  • Exposure to asbestos, second-hand smoke and other carcinogens in the air, such as arsenic, chromium and nickel


Scientific advances are making an impact in lung cancer.

More Americans are surviving lung cancer. Over the past five years, the survival rate has increased from 13% to 22.6%.

Researcher in lab coat

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