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Healthy Lungs for Life: Know Your Lung Cancer Risk Factors

November 1, 2018
Published in: Cancer

Image of a chest x-ray

The American Cancer Society's estimates 234,030 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018. In fact, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. Sadly, lung cancer claims the lives of more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined. These statistics are staggering. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of lung cancer.

What the Numbers Tell Us

To better understand your risk factors, here are the numbers you should be aware of:

  • Lung cancer mainly occurs in people over 65 years old
  • The average age of lung cancer diagnosis is 70 years old
  • Less than 2% of people under the age of 45 get lung cancer
  • 1 in 14 men get lung cancer including smokers and non-smokers
  • 1 in 17 women get lung cancer including smokers and non-smokers

Take Action for Your Health

Risk factors for lung cancers include both things you can and can't control. For instance, age and family history are natural risk factors for lung cancer. However, there are many behaviors that you can control to reduce your risk of lung cancer.

Smoking: Your #1 Risk Factor

Young woman with outstretched arms breaking a cigaretteAround 80% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking cigarettes. Smoking "light" cigarettes or menthol cigarettes does NOT reduce your likelihood of developing lung cancer. Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals that are linked to cancers of all kinds. Smoking cigars or tobacco in pipes has nearly the same effect as smoking cigarettes.

Don't Pass It On: Second-Hand Smoke

Being around a person that smokes it more than just an annoyance. It is hazardous to your health. Inhaling second-hand smoke from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe is just as risky as smoking. Every year second-hand smoke results in non-smokers developing lung cancer. Each year approximately 7,300 non-smokers die from lung cancer, including children.

Protect Your Home: The Danger of Radon

Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is a natural gas that comes from rocks and dirt. Outdoors, radon is not harmful. However, when radon is trapped indoors, it is very dangerous. In fact, one in fifteen homes has dangerous levels of radon. You should use a radon testing kit to determine if your home has high levels of radon. Remember to test your basement where radon is likely present. In some instances, a radon safety system may need to be installed to reduce high radon levels. Make sure you're keeping you and your family safe.

Safety Zone: Risk Factors at Work

Man in a steel factory wearing a face maskCertain jobs include exposure to dangerous chemicals that cause cancer. Working with or near chemicals like arsenic, asbestos, chromium, nickel, and diesel exhaust increase your risk of lung cancer. Make sure you are taking safety precautions to protect yourself. Jobs with increased exposure include:

  • Coal mining
  • Firefighting
  • Auto Body Painting
  • Farming
  • Bartending/Waitressing where smoking is present
  • Housekeeping and Cleaning if natural products aren't used
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

Smog: More than Just Hazy Skies

Air pollution plagues many major cities. If you live or work near heavy traffic areas, your risk of lung cancer may increase. Researchers believe 5% of lung cancer deaths are caused by air pollution.

There are many positive actions you can take to reduce your risk of lung cancer. Not smoking, avoiding second-hand smoke, checking your home for radon, and limiting exposure to dangerous chemicals help keep your lungs healthy. We're also here to help. Learn more about getting a lung cancer screening that saves lives through early detection. To schedule your screening, contact Augusta Health Radiology at (540) 932-4400.