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What Are The Major Risk Factors For Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is known to be the leading cause of cancer deaths globally. The major risk factors that research has found may increase your chances of getting lung cancer. 

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.

Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer cells are categorized under the microscope into two major types. Depending on the type of lung cancer you have, your doctor will make treatment decisions.

The two general types of lung cancer include:

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer: This occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers and is less common than non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: This is an umbrella term for several types of lung cancers. Non-small cell lung cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
smoking cigarettes

Major Risk Factors of Lung Cancer

  • Smoking

The number one risk factor for lung cancer is smoking cigarettes. Cigars and pipes are also tobacco products that increase lung cancer risk. More than 7,000 chemicals are present in tobacco smoke. Smoking increases a person’s risk the longer they smoke and the more cigarettes they smoke each day. 

  • Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke (smoking from someone else’s cigarettes, pipes, or cigars) can also cause lung cancer. Inhaling secondhand smoke is like smoking. 

  • Radon

In the United States, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Water, soil, and rocks all contain radon, a naturally occurring gas. There is no way to see, taste, or smell it. By getting into homes or buildings through cracks or holes, radon can get trapped and build up in the air. Radon levels are high in homes and buildings where people live or work. Lung cancer can be caused by radon over long periods.

  • Personal or Family History of Lung Cancer

There is a risk that you may develop another lung cancer if you are a lung cancer survivor, especially if you smoke. Your risk of lung cancer may be higher if your parents, siblings, or children have had lung cancer. This could be true because they also smoke, or they live or work in the same place where they are exposed to radon and other substances that can cause lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Treatment for Lung Cancer 

A treatment plan is based on several factors such as overall health, the stage of your cancer, and the type. In some cases, you may choose not to undergo treatment. For instance, you may feel that the side effects of treatment will outweigh the potential benefits. When that’s the case, your doctor may suggest comfort care to treat only the symptoms the cancer is causing. 

Treatment may include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Stereotactic body radiotherapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Palliative care