Lung cancer

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Lung cancer - SPOC

Lung cancer, also known as lung carcinoma, is a malignant lung tumor characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung

Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent lung cancer.

Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking and exercising may also help prevent some cancers.

The following are risk factors for lung cancer

Cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking

Tobacco smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancerCigarettecigar, and pipe smoking all increase the risk of lung cancer. Tobacco smoking causes about 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer in men and about 8 out of 10 cases of lung cancer in women.

Studies also show that the risk of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years smoked. People who smoke have about 20 times the risk of lung cancer compared to those who do not smoke.

Secondhand smoke

People who inhale secondhand smoke are exposed to the same cancer-causing agents as smokers, although in smaller amounts. 

Family history

People with a relative who has had lung cancer may be twice as likely to have lung cancer as people who do not have a relative who has had lung cancer.

HIV infection

People infected with HIV may have more than twice the risk of lung cancer than those who are not infected. Since smoking rates are higher in those infected with HIV than in those not infected, it is not clear whether the increased risk of lung cancer is from HIV infection or from being exposed to cigarette smoke.

Environmental risk factors

Studies show that high levels of radon gas inside the home or workplace increase the number of new cases of lung cancer and the number of deaths caused by lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer is higher in smokers exposed to radon than in nonsmokers who are exposed to it. In people who have never smoked, about 26% of deaths caused by lung cancer have been linked to being exposed to radon.

  • Workplace exposure: Studies show that being exposed to the following substances increases the risk of lung cancer: asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, beryllium, cadmium, tar and soot.

These substances can cause lung cancer in people who are exposed to them in the workplace and have never smoked. As the level of exposure to these substances increases, the risk of lung cancer also increases. The risk of lung cancer is even higher in people who are exposed and also smoke.

  • Air pollution: Studies show that living in areas with higher levels of air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer.

Beta carotene supplements in heavy smokers

Taking beta carotene supplements (pills) increases the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers who smoke one or more packs a day. The risk is higher in smokers who have at least one alcoholic drink every day.

The following are protective factors for lung cancer

Not smoking

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke.

Quitting smoking

Smokers can decrease their risk of lung cancer by quitting. In smokers who have been treated for lung cancer, quitting smoking lowers the risk of new lung cancers. Counselling the use of nicotine replacement products, and antidepressant therapy have helped smokers to smoking.

In a person who has quit smoking, the chance of preventing lung cancer depends on how many years and how much the person smoked and the length of time since quitting. After a person has quit smoking for 10 years, the risk of lung cancer decreases 30% to 60%.

Lower exposure to workplace risk factors

Laws that protect workers from being exposed to cancer-causing substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, nickel, chromium as well as smoking prevention in the workplace may help lower their risk of developing lung cancer.

Lower exposure to radon

Lowering radon levels may lower the risk of lung cancer, especially among cigarette smokers. High levels of radon at homes may be reduced by preventing radon leakage, such as sealing basements.

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