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Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Certain factors increase your risk for lung cancer. Some of these risk factors are changeable, which means you can take action to reduce your risk for developing lung cancer. Other risk factors cannot be changed.

Simply having a risk factor does not mean you will develop lung cancer. Having several risk factors, however, can increase the odds that you will develop the condition.

Lung Cancer Risk Factors

Exposure to Tobacco Smoke

The American Cancer Society says that tobacco smoking is the number one risk factor for the development of lung cancer and that about 80 percent of lung cancer cases are associated with tobacco smoke. The risk for lung cancer is many times higher in smokers than in non-smokers. The longer you smoke, the higher your risk. Smoking cigars or pipes puts you at nearly as much risk for lung cancer as smoking cigarettes.

Secondhand smoke can also increase the risk for lung cancer. Approximately 7,000 deaths from lung cancer are associated with secondhand smoke each year.

Exposure to Radon

Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer; it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally as the result of the breakdown of uranium in the soil and water.

There are very low levels of radon outside, but the radioactive gas can become concentrated indoors. Radon levels can be especially high in the basement. Breathing radon exposes your lungs to small amounts of radiation in radon and this increases your risk for lung cancer.

Exposure to Asbestos

People who work in mines, textile plants, mills, and other workplaces that use insulation are at increased risk for lung cancer. Those who work in shipyards also have a higher risk for the disease. The risk for lung cancer is even greater in smokers who work in these places.

Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of a particular type of lung cancer, known as mesothelioma, which starts in the pleural lining of the lungs.

Workplace Exposure to Other Cancer-Causing Agents

Working around other cancer-causing agents, known as carcinogens, can increase the risk of lung cancer. These workplace carcinogens can include uranium or other radioactive ores, and diesel exhaust. Other carcinogens include:

  • Arsenic
  • Beryllium
  • Cadmium
  • Chloromethyl ethers
  • Chromium compounds
  • Coal products
  • Mustard gas
  • Nickel compounds
  • Silica
  • Vinyl chloride

Early detection of lung cancer is essential for a good outcome. Screening for lung cancer is an important step in detecting lung cancer early, especially for people who are at high risk for developing the disease. For more information on the risk factors for lung cancer, consult with a doctor or knowledgeable medical professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.