Lung cancer is common type of cancer and is a leading cause of cancer related deaths. Many risk factors have been identified for lung cancer.
Risk factors for lung cancer
- Smoking: Tobacco smoking (in any form cigarette, cigar, or pipe) is the most important risk factor for any type of lung cancer. People who smoke have about 20 times the risk of developing lung cancer as compared to non-smokers.
- Second-hand smoke: Exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke also increases the risk of lung cancer. Second-hand smoking means inhaling smoke that comes from a burning cigarette or smoke exhaled by another person who is smoking. According to studies, inhaling second-hand smoke is also injurious as it contains the same cancer -causing agents as when a cigarette is smoked, may be in smaller amounts. Inhaling second-hand smoke is also known as involuntary or passive smoking.
- Family history: If you have a family history of lung cancer, it increases your risk of lung cancer. Having a family history of lung cancer makes you two times more likely to develop lung cancer compared to a person who does not have a relative who has had lung cancer. In many cases it is difficult to assess if family history of lung cancer or exposure to second-hand smoke increased the risk of lung cancer in a person.
- Environmental radon exposure: Radon is a radioactive gas formed by breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. It comes out of the ground, and leaks into the air or water supply. It can slowly enter and build up in your house by gas which seeps in through cracks in floors, walls, or the foundation. According to research, high levels of radon gas can build up inside homes and other buildings and subsequently increase the number of new cases of lung cancer and the resultant deaths. The risk of lung cancer is higher if you are a smoker compared to a person who does not smoke.
- Air pollution: Association between air pollution and an increased risk of lung cancer has been observed in some studies.
- Workplace exposure to irritants and chemicals: A link between exposure to substance such as asbestos, arsenic, chromium and nickel at work place and increase in risk of lung cancer has been noted.
Tips to prevent lung cancer
As many of the risk factors for lung cancer are modifiable, it is possible to decrease the risk of lung cancer by taking measures such as:
- Not smoking—this is considered to be the best way to prevent lung cancer. Studies have shown that smoking is responsible for about 9 out of 10 cases in men and about 8 out of 10 cases of the disease in women. The risk of lung cancer increases with number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years of smoking. The risk of lung cancer is not decreased by smoking low tar or low nicotine cigarettes. Even people who. have smoked for years can decrease their risk of lung cancer by quitting. After being treated for lung cancer, quitting smoking lowers the risk of lung cancer recurrence.
- Limiting exposure at workplace: Limiting exposure to risk factors at workplace such as asbestos, arsenic, nickel, and chromium, may help to decrease your risk of developing lung cancer. There are laws to protect workers from being exposed to cancer-causing substances such as asbestos, arsenic, nickel, and chromium.
- Lower exposure to radon: Limiting exposure to radon gas may also lower the risk of lung cancer, especially in people who smoke tobacco. You can lower levels of radon at home by taking steps to prevent radon leakage, such as sealing basements.
- Diet and physical activity: Some studies suggest that eating diet rich in fruits or vegetables and doing regular exercises may lower the risk of lung cancer.