Lung Cancer Prevention | How You Can Reduce Your Risk

As the most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide¹, it’s important to learn more about lung cancer and the steps you can take to potentially prevent it.  

Have you considered clinical trials for Lung cancer?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Lung cancer, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Risk factors for lung cancer 

The main risk factors for the development of lung cancer include:

  • Cigarette smoke, whether as a smoker or secondhand exposure

  • Exposure to carcinogenic substances, radiation, and other toxic substances, including radon

  • Pre-existing lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, and others

  • Family history of lung cancer

The number one risk for lung cancer is inhaling smoke, by smoking yourself or inhaling secondhand smoke. Smoking accounts for an estimated 90% of all lung cancer diagnoses in the US². 

The risk of developing lung cancer from smoking increases with the number of cigarettes a person smokes per day, as well as how long a person has been smoking. If you are a smoker, your risk of lung cancer is significantly higher than if you do not smoke. The more you smoke over a longer period of time, the greater your risk. Even secondhand smoke can increase your risk of lung cancer.  

It has also been found that those with a family history of lung cancer are at greater risk of lung cancer. Research suggests that these individuals may be twice as likely³ to develop lung cancer. However, this could be linked to smoking rather than shared genes among family members, as individuals with a family history are statistically more likely to be smokers or exposed to secondhand smoke. 

Exposure to radiation, air pollution, and a range of harmful gases and substances can also increase a person’s risk. Often these are encountered in the workplace or older homes as a result of outdated construction methods. 

To minimize your risk of lung cancer, it is important to avoid exposure to the following substances:

  • Radon

  • Asbestos

  • Chromium

  • Arsenic

  • Nickel

  • Beryllium

  • Cadmium

Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Approximately 26% of lung cancer-related deaths⁴ are a result of radon exposure. 

Research has also been conducted on whether biological factors, such as race and gender, or lifestyle factors, such as obesity and lack of physical exercise, may contribute to lung cancer risk. However, these links have not yet been well-established. Lung cancer risk factors do not automatically result in a lung cancer diagnosis. But, by identifying these risk factors, you can take steps to prevent your chances of developing lung cancer. 

What to avoid 

When it comes to lung cancer prevention, the main lifestyle factors to avoid are smoking, including exposure to secondhand smoke, and exposure to harmful substances such as those listed above.

Smoking 

Smoking has long been proven to be a known cause of lung cancer. As a result, not smoking is one of the best things you can do to give yourself the best chance of preventing a future lung cancer diagnosis. 

Since smoking is the cause of between 80-90% of all lung cancer deaths⁵ in the United States, the best protection against the disease is never to smoke at all. 

However, for those who have been smokers in the past, it’s not too late. As long as you stop smoking before any cancer develops, your body will start to repair the damaged lung tissue, and your risk level will decrease. 

Regardless of your age or how long you have smoked, you can minimize your risk of developing lung cancer by quitting smoking. There is a big misconception among smokers that if they have lung cancer already, they may as well keep smoking. However, even if you already have lung cancer, quitting smoking can reduce mortality rates.

Does smoking weed cause lung cancer?

According to the American Thoracic Society⁶, smoking marijuana may increase your risk of lung cancer. This is because, just like tobacco, marijuana contains cancer-causing carcinogens. However, the research in this area is currently limited.

Does vaping cause lung cancer? 

Vaping is still a relatively new phenomenon, and we are still learning about the full extent of its impact on the human body. 

Medical professionals are concerned about the potential cancer-causing effects⁷ of vaping, but more research is needed to determine whether a link exists.  

Exposure 

You can also help to prevent lung cancer by avoiding exposure to harmful substances, such as radon, asbestos, chromium, arsenic, nickel, beryllium, and cadmium. 

Radon is the second-leading⁸ cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas, making it difficult to detect and avoid in day-to-day life. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all homes and workplaces be tested for radon to reduce the risk of exposure.  

What to encourage 

The best way to prevent lung cancer or for an early diagnosis is to have regular lung cancer screenings. For those in high-risk groups, screening for early detection can decrease lung cancer mortality rates by 14-20%⁹ and dramatically improve survival rates

An effective lung cancer screening method is a low-dose CT screening, a quick, non-invasive scan that uses no dyes or injections. 

Avoid or not to avoid?

When it comes to factors that may prevent lung cancer, there are still a lot of unknowns. 

Lifestyle modifications like healthy eating and exercise are always encouraged, but there is no evidence to suggest a direct correlation between these activities and reduced cancer risk.  

Diet

Our diet is undoubtedly linked to our overall health, but the jury is out on whether it helps reduce lung cancer risk.  

Some studies¹⁰ indicate that people who eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables may reduce their risk of lung cancer. Even so, the evidence remains inconclusive, though eating a healthy diet is always advisable.

Typically, lifestyle factors like having an unhealthy diet go hand-in-hand with other significant risk factors like smoking, for example. 

In general, individuals who have healthy diets also tend to be non-smokers. Since smoking is the leading risk factor for developing lung cancer, it is more likely that not smoking is responsible for a reduced risk of lung cancer than their diet. 

Physical activity

Much like diet, the impact of physical activity on developing lung cancer is also up for debate. Some studies suggest that people who are more physically active reduce their risk of developing lung cancer compared to their sedentary counterparts. 

However, again, this is complicated by other lifestyle factors, like smoking.

People who exercise regularly are also more likely to be non-smokers and have a healthy diet, so it’s not always easy to identify whether it is the exercise itself or the absence of smoking that improves their outlook. 

Researchers continue to study the possible link between exercise and the prevalence of lung cancer, with some studies¹¹ showing that recreational physical activity reduces lung cancer risk by 20-30% for women and 20-50% for men. 

Supplements 

Previously, supplements have been recommended to help lower an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer. However, there is no evidence to prove that this is an effective treatment method for prevention. 

The lowdown 

The best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to eliminate as many risk factors as possible from your daily life - especially no smoking and avoiding exposure to carcinogenic substances, which are the two main risks. 

Screening is recommended for high-risk patients. To find out whether you may be considered high-risk and meet screening criteria, seek advice from your doctor or a trusted medical professional, as awareness is key to prevention.

Have you considered clinical trials for Lung cancer?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Lung cancer, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64


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