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Report Finds Lung Disease Death Rates Increasing While Cancer, Heart Disease and Stroke Death Rates are Decreasing


WASHINGTON, D.C., June 2008—According to the latest report by the American Lung Association, Lung Disease Data, death rates due to lung disease are currently increasing while death rates due to other leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer and stroke are declining. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is expected to become the third leading cause of death by 2020.
The American Lung Association publishes Lung Disease Data to serve as a resource to the public, media, healthcare professionals, researchers and lung disease patients and their caregivers on the latest trends and research in lung disease, along with relevant facts and figures about some of the most common lung diseases in the United States today.

Lung disease is any disease or disorder where lung function is impaired. Lung diseases can be caused by long-term and immediate exposure to smoking, secondhand smoke, air pollution, occupational hazards such as asbestos and silica dust, carcinogens that trigger tumor growth, infectious agents, and over reactive immune defenses.

“Every year, about 400,000 Americans die from lung disease,” said Bernadette Toomey, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “With our report, Lung Disease Data, we hope to provide valuable information on lung disease to the public, especially to people who become ill and their family members who are caring for them,” she continued.

There are many types of lung diseases including:

Obstructive lung diseases such as asthma and COPD which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These all affect a person’s airways and limit or block the flow of air in or out of the lungs.

Infectious illnesses such as pneumonia, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and tuberculosis (TB). Bacteria or viruses cause these diseases that can also affect the membrane (or pleura) that surrounds the lungs.

Lung cancer. A disease characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells.

Respiratory failure, pulmonary edema, pulmonary embolism and pulmonary hy­pertension. These conditions are caused by problems with the normal gas exchange and blood flow in the lungs.

Pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis. These are diseases characterized by stiffen­ing and scarring of the lungs.

Occupational diseases, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis, caused by expo­sure to hazardous substances.

The American Lung Association strongly believes that if cigarette smoking, preventable premature childbirth, disregard for workers’ safety and violation of clean-air laws were to end today, a future largely free of the most lethal forms of lung disease would be possible.

The American Lung Association urges Congress to pass the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and to fund a COPD program at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The Lung Association is actively working to pass comprehensive smokefree laws across the country to eliminate people’s exposure to secondhand smoke, as well as to encourage the federal and state governments to pass policies to increase cessation services for the over 45 million U.S. adult smokers.

“As our nation wrestles with how to pay for increasing health care costs, we must look at the tremendous financial burden caused by tobacco in this nation,” Toomey added. “Tobacco use costs the United States an estimated $193 billion annually, including $96 billion in direct health care expenditures.”

To download the full report, please visit and visit the research section. For questions, please contact Carrie Martin at


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