Lung cancer is a kind of cancer that begins in the lungs and affects the way the lungs function, including blocking airways, accumulating fluid, and other life-threatening symptoms. Unfortunately, lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, affecting more than 200,000 people every year.
The cancer is typically attributed to tobacco use since smoking causes the majority of lung cancer cases. That being said, lung cancer can also affect people who have never smoked or been around smokers. In some cases, the cause of lung cancer may be difficult to determine. Given the statistics, it’s not safe to assume that only smoking can cause lung cancer. Awareness is everything, and knowing the many risk factors for lung cancer can help minimize your risk of developing the condition. Here are some of the main lung cancer risk factors and the screening methods you can get to test for lung cancer.
Smoking: Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and up to 80% of lung cancer deaths are related to smoking. The longer you smoke or the more you smoke, the higher risk you are at for developing lung cancer.
Exposure To Secondhand Smoke: Secondhand smoke has been proven to be nearly as damaging, if not as damaging, as smoking. Simply being around someone who smokes increases your chances of developing lung cancer.
Exposure To Radon Gas: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that occurs from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks. Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., and it tends to concentrate indoors, especially in basements.
Exposure To Asbestos & Carcinogens: This kind of exposure often occurs in workplaces like mines, mills, textile plants, places where insulation is used, and shipyards. Workers are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer; the risk increases if they also smoke.
Family Or Personal History of Lung Cancer: If you or a family member have had lung cancer, then you are at a higher risk of developing (or re-developing) lung cancer. Certain shared genetic mutations occur within families, which explains the increased risk of lung cancer among family members with a history of the disease.
Air Pollution: Cities tend to have high levels of air pollution, usually due to heavy traffic and other factors, which has been shown to increase the risk for lung cancer. Though it is a considerably smaller risk factor than smoking, it is estimated that about 5% of all deaths from lung cancer can be attributed to air pollution.
Previous Radiation Therapy: Having radiation therapy in the chest increases your risk for lung cancer, particularly if you also smoke. Radiation therapy in the chest is done in cases of breast cancer or after a mastectomy.
The best way to screen for lung cancer is with a low-dose CT scan. This scan is specific in that the amount of radiation emitted is over 5 times lower than the amount emitted from regular CT scans. This kind of scan is often used in people with a very high risk for developing lung cancer, like heavy smokers, people who have smoked for a long time, or those who work at high-risk workplaces.