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lung cancer logoWhat is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lungs. This usually occurs in those cells that line the air passages. As the cancer cells grow, they can interfere with the normal functioning of the lungs. They can also spread from the original part of the lung to lymph glands around the airway, the opposite lung, bones, brain, and liver, as well as to other parts of the body.

Lung cancer is the second and third most common cancer in males and females in Singapore respectively. During the five-year period from 2011-2015, 14.8% of all cancer incidences in men were lung cancer cases. For women, the figure is 7.5%. Meanwhile, being the leading cause of cancer deaths in Singapore, lung cancer accounted for 27.1% of cancer deaths in males and 16.6% in females.*

There are two major types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). SCLC makes up about 10-15% of all lung cancer cases. It is an aggressive cancer which grows quickly and spreads early to other parts of the body. This type of lung cancer is strongly associated with cigarette smoking. NSCLC is not as aggressive as SCLC but is more common. It tends to grow and spread less quickly than SCLC. NSCLC includes squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma.


* Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Registry Report, Trends in Cancer Incidence in Singapore 2010-2014

Risk Factors

  • Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor of lung cancer. The risk of having lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked each day and the duration of smoking
  • Second hand smoke (passive smoke) is a major risk factor of lung cancer among non-smokers. No amount of exposure to second-hand smoke is safe
  • Lung cancer is more common in people above the age of 40
  • Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals increases the risk of lung cancer, e.g. asbestos, coal gas, chromates, nickel, arsenic, vinyl chloride, mustard gas and radon
  • A personal or family history: the risk of lung cancer may be higher if your parents, brothers or sisters, or children have had lung cancer. A lung cancer survivor, especially those who have smoked, may develop another form of lung cancer. 


The most effective method to reduce the risk of getting lung cancer is to avoid smoking.