10 Tips for Lung Cancer Prevention

Lung cancer prevention goes beyond avoiding smoking. More than half of people who develop lung cancer at this time are not current smokers. What are 10 things you can do today to lower your risk?


Don't Smoke (and If You Quit, Get Screened)

Close-Up Of Burnt Cigarettes In Bowl On Table
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Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, responsible for 80 to 90 percent of lung cancers.

It is never too late to quit smoking. For those who have been diagnosed with lung cancer, smoking cessation may improve survival.

What many people do not realize is that chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis) are an independent risk factor for lung cancer. In other words, having COPD increases your risk for lung cancer whether or not you have smoked, and to a very significant degree. Considering that COPD is now the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, this is of great concern.

Unfortunately, the risk of lung cancer does not go back to normal after a person quits, and lung cancer is now more common in former smokers than current smokers. If this makes you uncomfortable, keep in mind that a screening test for lung cancer is now available for people who once smoked but kicked the habit.


Check Your Home for Radon

Radon (Chemical Element)
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For non-smokers, checking your home for radon is the number one thing you can do for lung cancer prevention. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall.

Radon is an odorless gas that results from the decay of natural uranium in the soil beneath our homes. Elevated levels of radon have been found in homes in all 50 states and around the world. The only way to know if you are at risk is to test your home for radon.

There has been some concern about granite in countertops causing lung cancer. Though some granite countertops may emit dangerous levels of radon, this is of much less concern that radon exposure from the soil beneath your home.


Be Careful and Aware at Work

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It’s estimated that up to 29 percent of lung cancers in men are related to on-the-job exposures to cancer-causing substances. The number is slightly lower, estimated at five percent of lung cancers in women having an occupational component

Many of these work collectively with smoking to raise your risk even further. Employers are required to provide Material Safety Data Sheets on chemicals you may be exposed to at work. Make sure to check these out.


Be Careful and Aware at Home

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Lung cancer prevention is important at home as well. Chemicals that contribute to lung cancer are found not only at the workplace but may be under your sink or in your garage. Carefully read labels on household products and follow the instructions for safe usage. Wood smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces may also increase the risk of developing lung cancer.


Avoid Secondhand Smoke

Young child being exposed to secondhand smoke

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Secondhand smoke is responsible for roughly 3000 cases of lung cancer each year in the United States alone. Living with a smoker increases your chance of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. Thankfully, smoking laws have made it easier to stay “secondhand smoke-free” in recent years, and will likely play an important role in lung cancer prevention.


Exercise for Lung Cancer Prevention

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Even moderate amounts of exercise can aid in lung cancer prevention. Studies suggest that even something as simple as gardening twice a week is associated with a lower risk of developing lung cancer.


Eat a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

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A diet rich in fruits in vegetables is linked with a lower risk of developing lung cancer. Recently, studies suggest that variety may be even more important than quantity. Make lung cancer prevention fun by trying out new foods in the produce section. Try to choose a rainbow of colors, including dark greens such as spinach and broccoli, the whites of onions, the reds of apples and tomatoes, and the orange of orange juice and winter squash.

On a reverse note, inorganic phosphates found in processed meats and cheeses are associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.


Enjoy a Cup of Green Tea

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Green tea has been shown to prevent some of the damage to cells caused by smoking, and some studies suggest people who consume more green tea appear to have a lower risk of lung cancer.

Human studies of green tea and cancer have been inconclusive. The National Cancer Institute doesn't recommend for or against using green tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer.

Drinking green tea isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to lower your risk.


Limit Your Intake of Alcohol

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Another important step in lung cancer prevention may include limiting your intake of certain types of alcoholic beverages. For men, the heavy consumption of beer and hard liquor is associated with an elevated risk of developing lung cancer. In contrast, a moderate intake of wine in men was linked with a lower risk of developing the disease.


Be Wary of Supplements

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Advertisements would lead us to believe that nutritional supplements are beneficial in lung cancer prevention, while in fact, studies have actually linked the use of some supplements to a higher risk of developing lung cancer. Supplements that have raised concern include beta-carotene, retinol, lutein, and vitamin E. If you are considering taking nutritional supplements, talk with your doctor or ask her to refer you to someone knowledgeable about the risks and benefits of supplements for your specific situation.

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Article Sources

  • National Cancer Institute. Lung Cancer Prevention (PDQ). Health Professional Version. Updated 11/04/15.