To complement the existing treatment guidelines for all tumour types, ESMO organises consensus conferences to focus on specific issues in each type of tumour. The Second ESMO Consensus Conference on Lung Cancer was held on 11-12 May 2013 in Lugano. A total of 35 experts met to address several questions on management of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in each of four areas: pathology and molecular biomarkers, early stage disease, locally advanced disease and advanced (metastatic) disease. For each question, recommendations were made including reference to the grade of recommendation and level of evidence. This consensus paper focuses on recommendations for pathology and molecular biomarkers in relation to the diagnosis of lung cancer, primarily non-small-cell carcinomas.