- About 222,500 new cases of lung cancer (116,990 in men and 105,510 in women)
- About 155,870 deaths from lung cancer (84,590 in men and 71,280 in women)
Our lungs are hard workers - constantly taking oxygen out of the air we inhale and passing it to our blood which then feeds the organs and muscles all over our body. The lungs are always building new cells to accomplish this work and replace the cells that get worn out from constant use. If that cell growth starts to happen abnormally cancer can take hold, invading and damaging our lung tissue.
Lung cancer risk factorsIt is possible to develop lung cancer without the risk factors listed here. However, these factors increase the likelihood of developing lung cancer and if you have more than one, you should talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk.
SmokingNearly 85% of all lung cancers are associated with smoking - including tobacco found in pipes and cigars. It is considered a direct and main cause. Smokers regularly expose their lungs to carcinogens that irritate and damage cells that line the respiratory tract. This irritation and damage can alter the DNA of the cells that are regularly reproducing. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke also contributes to an increased risk of lung cancer.
Exposure to cancer-causing materialsWhether at work or at home, exposure to some materials increases the risk of lung cancer - and that risk increases for those who also smoke. Exposure to asbestos, radon, and air pollutants from fossil fuels are linked to lung cancer. Other lung irritants, such as wood smoke, burning coal, mine dust, metals, or paint also increase the risk of lung cancer.
Genetics or Family HistoryPeople who have close family members, like parents, siblings or children, with lung cancer have a higher risk of lung cancer. The association is strongest in relatives who developed lung cancer at 60 years of age or younger.
Medical ConditionsMedical conditions and/or treatments may increase the risk of lung cancer. This is because of inflammation, irritation, and scarring that cause lung damage. Some examples include:
- Lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis (TB).
- HIV infection suppresses the body's immune system and causes lung diseases like pneumonia.
- Radiation therapy—Previous treatment for lung or breast cancer, for example, expose the lungs to direct radiation.
Reduce your risk of getting lung cancer
Quitting smoking is an important step in preventing most cancers, but none so much as lung cancer. In addition, for those who smoke, it takes the body longer to fight infections and heal wounds. The sooner smoking is stopped, the sooner the body can start to heal. Talk to your doctor about the options available to help you successfully quit. If you do not smoke, try to avoid smoking areas. Secondhand smoke has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.
Avoid or reduce environmental exposure— Radon gas levels in your home can be measured by a professional or with a home test kit. If you use chemicals at home, wear a mask, gloves, goggles, and protective clothing. Using proper ventilation can also help reduce your exposure.