What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?
A risk factor increases your chances of developing a condition. There are many risk factors for lung cancer as it’s one of the most common types of cancers.
- Cigarette smoking
- Drinking water contaminated with carcinogens like arsenic
- Exposure to toxic air and substances (asbestos, outdoor air pollution, diesel exhaust, radon)
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Family and personal history of lung cancer
- Having HIV/AIDS
- Previous lung cancer treatments, including radiation therapy
- Taking beta-carotene supplements
Fortunately, by taking steps to protect yourself against these risk factors, you can lower your chances of getting lung cancer. Further, if you’ve already been diagnosed with lung cancer, you can pursue treatments to live longer.
Some lung cancer patients qualify for financial aid to cover medical bills, depending on which risk factors led to their cancer. Learn more with a free case review right now.
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Toxic Substances & Lung Cancer Risk Factors
Some of the biggest lung cancer risk factors are toxic substances like cigarette smoke and asbestos exposure. Learn about these risk factors and others below.
Asbestos consists of a group of naturally occurring minerals that can be split into long, thin fibers. Asbestos fibers can get trapped in your lungs when you inhale them, and this can possibly cause lung cancer 10-50 years later.
Asbestos has been widely used in many industries and workplaces, especially before the early 1980s.
People with the highest risk of asbestos exposure include:
- Automotive industry workers
- Cement plant workers
- Construction workers
- Shipyard workers
- U.S. veterans
- Workers in asbestos mines
Besides lung cancer, those exposed to asbestos could develop mesothelioma (cancer of the body’s internal lining) or other illnesses.
Cigarettes are the biggest cause of lung cancer in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Up to 9 out of 10 lung cancer cases are caused by smoking cigarettes.
Heavy smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer, especially small cell lung cancer. Further, smokers who were exposed to asbestos have an even greater risk. Smokers exposed to asbestos are 50 times more likely to develop lung cancer compared to nonsmokers, as noted by the American Lung Association (ALA).
Did you develop lung cancer after asbestos exposure and smoking? Our team can help you find medical treatment and financial aid. Learn if you qualify by calling (877) 446-5767.
Secondhand or passive smoking occurs when someone accidentally inhales smoke from another person’s cigarette or tobacco product.
Secondhand smoke has the same chemicals as smoke that is actively inhaled. Accordingly, it is a leading lung cancer risk factor among non-smokers.
Radon is a dangerous gas that’s thought to be the second-most common cause of lung cancer, according to the ALA. Radon gas has no taste, smell, or color. This gas is naturally emitted from uranium deposits.
When outdoors, radon gas isn’t very dangerous as it is diluted to low concentrations by fresh air. However, radon can seep into buildings through cracks in foundations and dirt floors.
Inhaling radon can damage lung cells, increasing the risk of lung cancer. Smokers who are exposed to radon have a very high risk of lung cancer since their lungs are also being damaged by the smoke.
Workplace Carcinogen Exposure
Besides cigarette smoke, radon, and asbestos, many other carcinogens can increase the risk of lung cancer. In particular, those exposed to carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) in the workplace could be at greater risk.
All of the following substances can cause lung cancer:
- Arsenic, including inorganic arsenic compounds
- Beryllium and beryllium compounds
- Bitumen used in roofing
- Cobalt-tungsten carbide
- Diesel fuel
- Mustard gas
- Welding fumes
Dietary Lung Cancer Risk Factors
The risk of developing lung cancer increases if you drink water that’s contaminated with carcinogens and consume certain dietary supplements.
Contaminated Drinking Water
Drinking water that is contaminated by certain substances, such as arsenic, can increase the risk of developing lung cancer. The risk is even higher for smokers.
For example, U.S. veterans stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 are now at risk of lung cancer and other illnesses. The drinking water on the base was contaminated by vinyl chloride, benzene, and other chemicals during this time.
Lung cancer is now listed as one of 15 “presumptive conditions” linked to Camp Lejeune’s water by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This means veterans can get reimbursed for medical expenses by the VA if they developed lung cancer from serving at this base.
Our team can help you if you developed lung cancer after serving in the military. Learn more through a free case review.
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A vitamin supplement called beta-carotene can increase the risk of developing lung cancer in smokers. Beta-carotene is naturally found in plants like carrots and the body converts it into vitamin A, according to Mount Sinai Medical Center. However, when given in a supplement form, it’s actually dangerous for smokers.
According to recent studies reported on by the Mayo Clinic, smokers and/or those exposed to asbestos who received beta-carotene supplements had higher rates of lung cancer. One study noted an 18% increase in lung cancer cases, while another noted a 28% increase.
Medical History & Lung Cancer Risk Factors
A patient’s medical history (such as what types of illnesses they or their family members have developed) could indicate if they’re at risk for lung cancer.
Family History of Lung Cancer
If you are a sibling or child of someone who has had lung cancer, you may have a higher chance of developing lung cancer, especially if your relative was diagnosed at an earlier age.
It is not clear whether this risk is due to shared genes or shared household exposures, such as exposure to radon or tobacco smoke.
However, researchers have discovered genes that appear to play a role in some families with a strong history of lung cancer.
Personal History of Lung Diseases
People with a history of other lung diseases are at a higher risk of lung cancer. Cancer research has shown that emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, and tuberculosis are linked to more lung cancer diagnoses.
Previous Lung Cancer Treatments
People who have previously undergone lung cancer treatments — most notably radiation therapy — are more likely to develop lung cancer. Radiation treatments use high-energy beams of X-rays and other particles, which can sometimes damage DNA and cause cancer.
People who have undergone radiation therapy for other cancers, such as breast cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, are also at a higher risk for lung cancer.
People who have HIV or AIDS are more likely to develop lung cancer. HIV/AIDS patients have impaired immune systems and are at a higher risk of oncogenic (cancer-causing) viral infections.
One out of every five HIV/AIDS patients that smoke develop lung cancer, according to studies noted by the Fred Hutch Cancer Center.
Potential Lung Cancer Risk Factors
Some scientists believe that a few other factors (like marijuana smoking) can increase the risk of lung cancer. However, more research is needed. Learn about these potential lung cancer risk factors below.
Marijuana might be a lung cancer risk factor because:
- The smoke contains many carcinogens that are found in tobacco smoke, including tar.
- Users often inhale deeply and hold the smoke in the lungs for a long time. This gives the carcinogens more time to damage the lungs.
- It’s still illegal in many places, so the government has little to no control over what additional toxic substances may end up in it.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is still investigating whether or not marijuana is a risk factor for lung cancer.
Talc and Talcum Powder Exposure
Talc is a mineral that may contain asbestos in its natural form. It’s often ground up into talcum powder, which is used in cosmetics and as a baby hygiene product.
Recent lawsuits have linked baby powder that’s been contaminated with asbestos fibers to other cancers like mesothelioma and ovarian cancer.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that studies are underway to see if people exposed to talc on a regular basis (such as miners) are at a higher risk of lung cancers and other illnesses. The ACS also stated that cosmetic talcum powder usage has not been shown to increase lung cancer risk.
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that simulate tobacco smoking. They heat a liquid that contains nicotine and other chemicals to turn it into a vaporized solution. E-cigarette users inhale this vapor into their lungs.
E-cigarettes are fairly new, so more studies are needed to understand their long-term effects, including any potential increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Can You Lower Your Lung Cancer Risk?
Yes, there are steps you can take to lower the chance of getting lung cancer. These are known as protective factors.
Protective factors for lung cancer include:
The best way to lower your lung cancer risk is to avoid smoking.
Lowering exposure to workplace toxins
Avoiding cancer-causing substances in the workplace, such as asbestos, arsenic, and chromium, may lower your risk of developing lung cancer.
Lowering radon exposure
You can reduce radon levels by sealing basements in homes. You can also keep track of radon levels by purchasing tests or detectors.
The chances of preventing lung cancer depend on how long the person has smoked and how long it’s been since they have quit. If a person has quit smoking for 10 years, their risk of lung cancer decreases by 30% to 60%. Quitting can also lower the risk of new lung cancers in smokers who have previously had lung cancer.
Find Help for You or a Loved One With Lung Cancer
A lung cancer diagnosis can be devastating. Fortunately, there are many options for cancer care, clinical trials, and legal compensation.
At Lung Cancer Group, our team may be able to help you get compensation from manufacturers if you developed lung cancer due to asbestos exposure in the workplace or during military service.
This compensation can cover:
- Basic living expenses, including rent and groceries
- Health care costs
- Lost wages
- Travel expenses if you need to travel for medical care
Interested in learning more about how we can help you? Get a free case review to find out about benefits available to you after a lung cancer diagnosis.
Common Questions About Lung Cancer Risk Factors
What are 3 major risk factors for lung cancer?
Common lung cancer risk factors include cigarette smoking, asbestos exposure, and a family history of this condition. If you believe you’re at risk of lung cancer, make sure to check in with a doctor regularly.
What group has the highest risk for lung cancer?
Those who smoke cigarettes are at the highest risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking is the biggest lung cancer risk factor — by quitting, you can greatly reduce the odds of getting sick.
Further, seniors are more likely to develop lung cancer. Most people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older. The average age of people when diagnosed with lung cancer is 70.
What can I do to reduce the risks of getting lung cancer?
You can lower your chances of lung cancer by avoiding or quitting smoking, avoiding other possible causes of lung cancer like asbestos exposure, and scheduling precautionary checkups with your doctor.
By taking these steps, you’ll be less likely to develop lung cancer — and by seeing a doctor regularly, you may be able to catch the cancer before it spreads.