Lung Cancer Risk Factors (Hint: It’s Not Just Smoking)

Apr 14 • 2016

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. It’s estimated that one out of every four cancer deaths are caused by this form. Anyone can get lung cancer, even people who don’t smoke. Because it is an especially dangerous form of cancer, knowing your risk factors and being able to recognize symptoms is crucial.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer
Most people know that smoking is a common cause of lung cancer, but many don’t realize that almost 90 percent of lung cancer cases are a result of smoking. If you are a smoker, quitting is the best first step you can take. If you don’t smoke but are around a friend or family member who does, or if you have smoked in the past, your risk is not as high – however, you can still be impacted by the effects of secondhand smoke.

Other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to chemicals like asbestos, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, nickel, and uranium
  • Air pollution
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Personal history of lung disease
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Previous cancer diagnosis related to smoking
  • Previous treatment for cancer
  • Reduced immunity

Lung Cancer Symptoms
Unfortunately, many people with lung cancer don’t experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed. The kinds of symptoms people do notice can vary from person to person, but if you notice one or more of these, it is important to speak with your doctor right away.

  • Chronic cough that continues to get worse
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic chest pain
  • Recurrent lung infections like pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blood clots
  • Pain or fractures in the bone

Prevention of Lung Cancer
If you are currently a smoker, the best way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking as soon as possible. For non-smokers, avoiding secondhand smoke and having your home tested for radon are extremely important steps. As with all cancers, maintaining a healthy diet and including regular physical activity in your daily regimen can aid in prevention.

If you have questions about your risk for lung cancer or need help quitting smoking, talk with your doctor today.

For more information about cancer services at Baptist, visit our Baptist Cancer Center page, or find a physician by visiting our Find a Doctor page.