Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society has predicted that in this year (2022) alone, approximately 236,740 new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed. Of these patients, 130,180 are expected to die from the disease.
Even if you have a healthy lifestyle, you cannot eliminate all risks of developing lung cancer, as various environmental factors could play a role. Unfortunately, there have been plenty of people who have led healthy lifestyles but were still diagnosed with lung cancer.
You may not be able to guarantee that you will never get lung cancer, but there are certain actions you can take to significantly reduce the risk.
Here’s what you need to know about the top causes of lung cancer and what you can do to reduce your risk.
Top Causes of Lung Cancer
The vast majority of lung cancers are caused by smoking tobacco products. The American Lung Association estimates that smoking cigarettes are responsible for about 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men and women in the United States. Even if you don’t smoke cigarettes, exposure to secondhand smoke can significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Another significant cause of lung cancer is exposure to known carcinogens, such as radon, asbestos, and air pollution. Radon is a gas that naturally occurs when uranium breaks down in rocks and soil. It can enter homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings and cause damage to your lungs when you inhale it.
Asbestos is a material that was once commonly used in insulation and fireproofing. When asbestos fibers become airborne, they can be inhaled and lodge themselves in your lungs, causing irritation and inflammation that can lead to lung cancer over time.
Air pollution from chemical processing plants, smoke from structural fires, or car exhaust can also contain carcinogens that raise your risk of lung cancer.
While smoking and exposure to carcinogens are the leading causes of lung cancer, other risk factors—such as a family history of lung cancer or having a weak immune system—can contribute to your chances of developing the disease.
Reducing Your Risk
Given that smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of lung cancer, avoiding tobacco products altogether is the best way to reduce your risk. If you do smoke cigarettes, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. There are many resources available to help you quit smoking successfully.
Reducing exposure to known carcinogens like radon and asbestos and getting regular screenings for early detection will also help lower risks. The earlier lung cancer is caught, the better the prognosis.
Regular screenings are done by getting a low-dose CT scan of your chest. These are typically recommended for people who are current or former smokers between the ages of 55 and 80.
Lung cancer is a serious disease, but by taking action to avoid known carcinogens and getting regular screenings, you can dramatically reduce your chances of developing this deadly cancer.