Risk Factors for Lung Disease

By  , Expert Content
Sep 12, 2011

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Risk Factors for Lung Disease

There are several risk factors which increase your chance of getting a lung disease. Having a certain risk factor does not mean that you will develop the disease or that it is the direct cause of the disease. It just means that it is associated with it in some way and having a risk factor makes the chances of your getting the disease is higher. Some of the risk factors are modifiable (that is can be changed such as smoking and exposure to certain chemicals) whereas others cannot be modified such as family history, and age. If you don’t have a certain risk factor it does not mean that you will not develop the disease.


  • Age: Age is a risk factor for certain lung diseases such as pneumonia, and other lung infections. Infections of the lung are more common in the elderly and very young.
  • Smoking: The risk of several types of lung diseases such as bronchitis, lung cancer, and emphysema is increased in people who smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer (smoking causes 9 out of 10 cases). Your risk of developing lung diseases is increased with the duration of smoking; the more you smoke, the more likely you are to get lung diseases especially lung cancer.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to number of substances (asbestos, chemicals and gases) increases your risk of developing lung diseases such as asthma and lung cancer. Exposure to certain substances such as asbestos, metal dust and fumes, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in large amounts, when you work with them, increases your risk of lung cancer.
  • Air pollution: Air pollution may cause lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, and also lung cancer. According to studies, people exposed to large amounts of diesel exhaust fumes at work, are at higher risk of lung cancer (the risk increases by up to 47%). Similarly exposure to high levels of nitrogen oxides (mainly from cars and other vehicles) increases the risk of lung cancer by about a third. People constantly exposed to irritants in the workplace such as chemicals, dusts, gases, moulds and pollens are at higher risk of developing asthma. This is especially true for people who are in professions such as baking, painting of cars, Wood work and chemical production.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of lung cancer or asthma, your risk of developing the condition is increased. It does not mean that you will definitely develop the condition. However, the exact genes or the extent to which genetic or hereditary factors contribute to lung diseases is not known.


Awareness about the risk factors can help you to avoid factors which can increase the chances of developing lung diseases as most factors for lung diseases are modifiable. If you have a family history of lung disease you should avoid smoking and occupational exposure to chemicals (factors which further increase the risk).


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