If you asked 100 people what they thought the leading cause of cancer death in women was, 99 of them would say “breast cancer.”
They’d actually be wrong.
Though the American Cancer Society states that there will be 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women in 2019, breast cancer, while potentially deadly and unduly prevalent, is not the leading cause of death in women.
According to the Lung Cancer Alliance, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both women and men. In the United States alone, an average of 181 women die each day of lung cancer, one every 8 minutes.
Even more scary, women who have never smoked are more than twice as likely to get lung cancer as men who have never smoked.
These figures are absolutely frightening, but, believe it or not, it gets worse.
A question of why
Despite a higher number of annual deaths, lung cancer receives only $2,488 per death in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (as opposed to over $19,000 per death for breast cancer), according to the Lung Cancer Alliance. This makes lung cancer the least funded of all the major cancers affecting women.
So the obvious question is “why”? According to Fortune, we know that lung cancer is responsible for 32% of cancer deaths, and yet only receives 10% of cancer research funding. This is horrifying to me, and I imagine, to you, too.
I can tell you off the top of my head all about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Every October, I have the ability to buy every thing imaginable in pink, from wristbands to shirts, yogurt to makeup. Until I researched this story, I didn’t even realize there was a Lung Cancer Awareness Month (it’s November, for anyone else not in the know).
As it is with most things, the reasons for this discrepancy are intricate and difficult to understand, but there is, without a doubt, a connection between disproportional funding and widespread stigmas that persist about lung cancer.