Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, accounting for almost 25% of all cancer deaths. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of lung cancer and improve your overall health.
Keep reading to learn the top risk factors for lung cancer you need to know and what you can do to start reducing your risk today!
What Causes Lung Cancer
At a basic level, lung cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth in the lungs. This is usually due to ingesting harmful chemicals, most commonly through the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
However, lung cancer can occur even in individuals that have never touched a tobacco product. For example, second-hand smoke, genetic or lifestyle factors, and even inhaling harmful substances in the home or workplace can all play a role in the development of lung cancer.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common risk factors for lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Risk Factors
Risk factors for lung cancer are things that put someone at a greater risk of developing the disease. These factors don’t necessarily mean someone will get lung cancer, but the more risk factors a person has, the higher their risk is of getting lung cancer at some point in their lifetime.
Common lung cancer risk factors include:
- Smoking tobacco products, including cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Exposure to radon
- Working near harmful substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, tar, and soot.
- Living in an area with high levels of air pollution
- A family history of lung cancer
- HIV infection
- Beta carotene supplements in heavy smokers
However, these factors don’t only apply to lung cancer. Many of these increase an individual’s risk of developing many other forms of cancer as well!
Is lung cancer hereditary?
Despite being mostly associated with environmental factors, research suggests that lung cancer does have a hereditary component. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 8% of lung cancers are inherited or occur as the result of a genetic predisposition.
Unfortunately, the exact mechanism and role of genetic vs environmental factors in the development of lung cancer are still poorly understood. Additionally, genetic factors also influence a person’s likelihood of starting to smoke and succeeding in quitting, both of which have a large impact on the risk of developing lung cancer.
Can vaping cause lung cancer?
Vaping may cause lung cancer, but current research is limited. Vaping is the use of e-cigarettes—devices that heat a liquid, often containing nicotine, and turn it into an aerosol of tiny particles when breathed in. Because vaping is a relatively new form of smoking, more research is necessary to explore its correlation to lung cancer.
However, a review of current data found that e-cigarettes contain and produce a number of definite and probable toxic and cancer-causing compounds. Researchers warn that the effect of tobacco products was only evident years after usage, and if e-cigarettes have similar negative effects, the future public health implications are severe.
Does smoking weed cause lung cancer?
According to the current research, it remains an open question whether smoking weed causes lung cancer. While some studies have shown that heavy, regular marijuana smoking can increase the risk for respiratory cancer, large population studies have not found any such association. In addition, some cell cultures and animal studies suggest that THC and CBD may actually have antitumor effects.
However, despite this marijuana smoke does contain carcinogenic chemicals and does cause significant damage to the lungs. In addition, those who smoke marijuana may be more likely to smoke cigarettes, which does increase the risk of lung cancer. So although more research is needed on the topic, it may be a good idea to help your lungs by staying clear of smoking altogether.
How to Prevent Lung Cancer
Preventing lung cancer requires a combination of lifestyle and environmental changes to enhance your protection. Here are five simple steps to help you get started.
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking cigarettes is the #1 risk factor for lung cancer, responsible for an estimated 80-90% of all deaths from lung cancer globally. If you smoke, quitting is also the #1 way to prevent lung cancer. When you quit smoking and stick with it, you cut your risk of lung cancer in half after 10 years. And if you don’t smoke, continuing to not smoke is one of the best things you can do to prevent lung cancer. Even if you’re genetically predisposed to lung cancer, the chances of you getting it without smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke are low.
In addition to smoking cigarettes, vaping may increase one’s chance of getting lung cancer. To do everything you can to reduce your risk, limit your use of e-cigarettes as well.
2. Test for Radon
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that forms in rocks, soil, and water and can leach into homes and buildings through cracks. Next to smoking, exposure to radon is responsible for the largest number of lung cancer cases. To help prevent lung cancer from radon exposure, it’s important to have your home tested for radon.
If you have high levels of radon at home, the best way to reduce radon is to have a qualified professional install a radon reduction system. If radon levels in your home are low, you can prevent them from rising by providing consistent ventilation (open windows, fans, etc.) and sealing any cracks in the floors or walls.
3. Avoid Hazardous Substances
Working near harmful substances, including asbestos, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, tar, soot, and diesel exhaust, has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. The greater the exposure, the greater the risk. If possible, remove yourself from environments where exposure to these chemicals and substances is high. If you can’t remove yourself from these environments, wear protective gear to limit your exposure as much as possible.
4. Exercise Regularly
While not smoking will have the most dramatic impact on reducing your risk of lung cancer, additional lifestyle changes, such as exercise, may help to prevent lung cancer and other cancers. In addition, exercise has the added benefit of improving your overall health period. The American Cancer Society recommends limiting sedentary activity and getting a minimum of 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.
5. Eat Plenty of Fruits & Vegetables
While poor nutrition hasn’t been linked directly to lung cancer, it has been linked to other forms of cancer. Experts agree that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed sugar is important to reduce overall cancer risk. While more research is necessary, there is also some evidence that suggests a healthy diet may help prevent lung cancer.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, white meat, fish, and whole-grain bread, and low in red meat, high fat, and refined grains is not only associated with a decreased risk of lung cancer but also a decreased risk of dying from all causes.
Reduce Your Risk of Lung Cancer
There are many factors that influence the chances of getting lung cancer. And while some may be unavoidable, if you follow the tips above you can not only reduce your risk but improve your overall health and well-being. In addition, if you think you are at increased risk for lung cancer – talk to your doctor about additional screening. Screening and early detection can help diagnose lung cancer early which can be crucial in preventing the progression of the disease.