Lung Cancer Prevention

Tips on Reducing Your Risk for Lung Cancer

mother kissing her baby
How can you lower your risk for lung cancer?.

Lung cancer prevention is a critical topic since lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women worldwide. And while the disease certainly cant always be prevented - after all, many people develop lung cancer who have never smoked and have no other risk factors - there are ways that people may be able to reduce their risk. Smoking accounts for a large number of lung cancers, but people who have never smoked can take action to lower their risk as well. From testing for radon in your home, to practicing caution with chemical at home and at work, to eating a healthy diet, many people will find a tip or two below that might just make a difference in whether they develop lung cancer or not in their lifetime.

Prevention refers to avoiding cancer in the first place, but early detection is also important. Now that lung cancer screening is available, a test that has been shown to reduce deaths due to lung cancer, this may be an option for some people as well. What many people do not realize is that a history of smoking in the past is important. There are more former smokers who develop lung cancer each year than current smokers.

It's important to stress again that people who have never smoked, and have never been exposed to secondhand smoke, can and do develop lung cancer. One in five women who develop lung cancer have never smoked, and lung cancer is actually increasing significantly in young never-smoking women. The reason why is not certain. Unfortunately, the stigma of lung cancer being a smoker's disease has overshadowed research looking into why so many nonsmokers develop the disease.

To put this into perspective, it's estimated that there are around 27,000 lung cancer deaths due to radon exposure in the United States each year. There are roughly 40,000 deaths due to breast cancer. If we knew of something easy people could do to prevent almost three-fourths of breast cancers, most people would have heard. Yet many people have not checked their homes for radon.

As you look through the issues below, keep in mind that some risk factors for lung cancer can be modified, while others cannot. Both types of risk factors are important. If a risk is modifiable, you may be able to take action to lower your risk. Yet even if the risk factor can't be changed (you can't change the fact that a parent had lung cancer), being aware of your risk factors may encourage you to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, and seek medical attention should they occur.

Smoking Cessation

The link between smoking and lung cancer is well established, and we won't repeat what you've likely heard most of your life. Overall, smoking is responsible for around 85 percent of lung cancers in the United States, though it's important to note that the majority of people who develop lung cancer today are past smokers, not current smokers. Quitting smoking at any time can lower the risk of developing lung cancer, and appears to increase survival for people with lung cancer as well.

Radon Exposure

Exposure to radon in the home is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, and the number one cause in non-smokers. And it's entirely preventable with radon testing, and mitigation if needed.

Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that results from the normal decay of radium in the soil. It can seep into homes through cracks and vents. While some areas of the country tend to have higher radon levels than others, elevated radon levels have been found in homes in all 50 states. Even if your neighbor's radon level is normal, yours could still be high and the only way to know is to test.

Radon testing is easy and inexpensive, and most hardware stores carry the kits. After purchasing a kit, it's left out in the lowest level of living space in the home for 48 hours, and then sent to a lab to be tested. Commercial testing is also available. In some areas of the country, testing is required before buying or selling home, but in other areas there are no regulations.

Radon mitigation is recommended for homes that have a radon level above 4 i, and some believe that levels between 2 and 4 should be mitigated as well. If your level is high, it's important to find a certified radon specialist to help you resolve the problem in your home.

Inexpensive test kits are available at most hardware stores and should be placed in the lowest level of living space in the home. If the results are abnormal, the Environmental Protection Agency can provide assistance in repairing the problem.

Secondhand Smoke

Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers two to three fold.

asking visitors to only smoke outside of your home, and never allowing smoking in your car is a start. In addition to smoke that is present in the air from smokers, we are learning that third=hand smoke, or the particles that are left behind on carpeting, fabrics, and other surfaces, may also carry risks, especially for children.


Workplace exposure to asbestos increases the risk of both lung cancer, and of tumors of the membranes (pleura) that lines the lung (mesothelioma).

, and combined with smoking the risk is exponential. Employers should have safety recommendations for those exposed. Homes built prior to 1970 may contain asbestos insulation. Left alone, this insulation is rarely of concern, but a contractor that is certified to work with asbestos should be consulted when remodeling.

Chemical and Occupational Exposures

Several chemicals used in industry and around homes may increase the risk of lung cancer. Labels on home products such as wood stripper, and Material Safety Data Sheets provided by employers, provide information on safe exposure and proper masks to use to limit exposure.

Diet and Exercise

A healthy diet and moderate physical activity both play a role in lung cancer prevention.


Just as a family history of cancers such as breast cancer can raise your risk, having a

family history of lung cancer

increases risk as well.

You can't change your genetics, but there are some things you can do to lower your risk, even if you have a genetic predisposition to lung cancer. Having a family history raises risk, with those who have a first-degree relative having double the risk of developing the disease. Now that we have a lung screening tool available, those with a strong family history should talk with their doctors. In addition, having a family history may be just the extra incentive needed to be cautious with more risk factors. For example, women who carry the "breast cancer gene mutation" BRCA2 have double the risk of lung cancer if they also smoke.

1.6 percent

Early Detection For Lung Cancer

know your risk factors and know the symptoms


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