Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer comprise the leading causes of lung disease-related mortality worldwide. Exposure to tobacco smoke is a mutual aetiology underlying the two diseases, accounting for almost 90% of cases. There is accumulating evidence supporting the role of immune dysfunction, the lung microbiome, extracellular vesicles and underlying genetic susceptibility in the development of COPD and lung cancer. Further, epigenetic factors, involving DNA methylation and microRNA expression, have been implicated in both diseases. Chronic inflammation is a key feature of COPD and could be a potential driver of lung cancer development. Using next generation technologies, further studies investigating the genomics, epigenetics and gene-environment interaction in key molecular pathways will continue to elucidate the pathogenic mechanisms underlying the development of COPD and lung cancer, and contribute to the development of novel diagnostic and prognostic tools for early intervention and personalised therapeutic strategies.