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Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death for both men and women. This year, an estimated 225,500 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer and about 155,870 will die of the disease.

Lung cancer accounts for about 14 percent of all new cancer diagnoses and 27 percent of all cancer deaths. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer.

Smoking

Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In the United States, cigarette smoking is linked to about 80% to 90% of lung cancers. Using other tobacco products such as cigars or pipes also increases the risk for lung cancer. Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Many are poisons. At least 70 are known to cause cancer in people or animals.

People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer. The more years a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more risk goes up.

People who quit smoking have a lower risk of lung cancer than if they had continued to smoke, but their risk is higher than the risk for people who never smoked. Quitting smoking at any age can lower the risk of lung cancer.

Cigarette smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. Cigarette smoking causes cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, voicebox (larynx), trachea, bronchus, kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, and cervix, and causes acute myeloid leukemia.

Secondhand Smoke

Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, pipes, or cigars (secondhand smoke) also causes lung cancer. When a person breathes in secondhand smoke, it is like he or she is smoking. In the United States, two out of five adults who don’t smoke and half of children are exposed to secondhand smoke, and about 7,300 people who never smoked die from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke every year.

Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in houses and buildings. It cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon causes about 20,000 cases of lung cancer each year, making it the second leading cause of lung cancer. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is thought to have high radon levels. The EPA recommends testing homes for radon and using proven ways to lower high radon levels.

Other Substances

Examples of substances found at some workplaces that increase risk include asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust,and some forms of silica and chromium. For many of these substances, the risk of getting lung cancer is even higher for those who smoke.

Personal or Family History of Lung Cancer

If you are a lung cancer survivor, there is a risk that you may develop another lung cancer, especially if you smoke. Your risk of lung cancer may be higher if your parents, brothers or sisters, or children have had lung cancer. This could be true because they also smoke, or they live or work in the same place where they are exposed to radon and other substances that can cause lung cancer.

Radiation Therapy to the Chest

Cancer survivors who had radiation therapy to the chest are at higher risk of lung cancer.

Diet

Scientists are studying many different foods and dietary supplements to see whether they change the risk of getting lung cancer. There is much we still need to know. We do know that smokers who take beta-carotene supplements have increased risk of lung cancer. For more information, visit Lung Cancer Prevention.

Also, arsenic in drinking water (primarily from private wells) can increase the risk of lung cancer. For more information, visit the EPA’s Arsenic in Drinking Water.

Different people have different symptoms for lung cancer. Some people have symptoms related to the lungs. Some people whose lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized) have symptoms specific to that part of the body. Some people just have general symptoms of not feeling well. Most people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Lung cancer symptoms may include—

  • Coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Feeling very tired all the time.
  • Weight loss with no known cause.

Other changes that can sometimes occur with lung cancer may include repeated bouts of pneumonia and swollen or enlarged lymph nodes (glands) inside the chest in the area between the lungs.

These symptoms can happen with other illnesses, too. If you have some of these symptoms, talk to your doctor, who can help find the cause.

You can help lower your risk of lung cancer in the following ways—

  • Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking causes about 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. The most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to not start smoking, or to quit if you smoke.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars, or pipes is called secondhand smoke. Make your home and car smoke-free.
  • Get your home tested for radon. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that all homes be tested for radon.
  • Be careful at work. Health and safety guidelines in the workplace can help workers avoid carcinogens—things that can cause cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends yearly lung cancer screening with LDCT for people who—

  • Have a history of heavy smoking, and
  • Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and
  • Are between 55 and 80 years old.

Heavy smoking means a smoking history of 30 pack years or more. A pack year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. For example, a person could have a 30 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

Resources

Filter:

News | Dec 3, 2018FDA makes landmark decision on menthol cigarettes, takes small steps in e-cigarette use
News | Nov 29, 2018Let’s talk about lungs: Building awareness across the nation
News | Nov 9, 2018Sharon Y. Eubanks honored for her leadership in tobacco control
News | Nov 9, 2018Prevent Cancer Foundation® visits McLaren Northern Michigan Foundation, recipient of $25,000 grant for lung cancer prevention program
News | Nov 7, 2018Prevent Cancer Foundation hosts 15th annual Quantitative Imaging Workshop
News | Aug 6, 2018Department of Housing and Urban Development moves to protect residents from secondhand smoke
News | Jul 9, 2018The Prevent Cancer Foundation® commends and commemorates winners of the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC) Excellence in Journalism Award
News | Apr 20, 2018ICYMI: April 20, 2018
News | Sep 29, 2017Quantitative Imaging Workshop tackles questions resulting from new screening capabilities
News | Aug 31, 2017Are e-cigarettes safer than traditional cigarettes? New study aims to find out
News | Aug 2, 2017Prevent Cancer Foundation® applauds FDA plan to lower nicotine levels in cancer-causing cigarettes, continues to discourage e-cigarette use
News | May 5, 2017ICYMI: May 5, 2017
News | Apr 27, 2017ICYMI: April 28, 2017
News | Mar 10, 2017ICYMI: March 10, 2017
News | Feb 17, 2017ICYMI: February 17, 2017
News | Dec 2, 2016ICYMI: December 2, 2016
News | Nov 22, 2016Finally kick your smoking habit during Lung Cancer Awareness Month
News | Nov 4, 2016ICYMI: November 4, 2016
News | Aug 5, 2016ICYMI: August 5, 2016
News | Aug 4, 2016What the Prevent Cancer 5k Walk/Run Means to Me
News | Aug 1, 2016The state of lung cancer research in the United States
News | Jun 17, 2016ICYMI: June 17, 2016
News | May 31, 2016World No Tobacco Day: It’s Time to Make a Change
News | May 13, 2016ICYMI: May 13, 2016
News | May 6, 2016ICYMI: May 6, 2016
News | Apr 8, 2016ICYMI: April 8, 2016
News | Mar 25, 2016ICYMI: March 25, 2016
News | Mar 11, 2016ICYMI: March 11, 2016
News | Feb 3, 2016It's Cancer Prevention Month
News | Dec 11, 2015ICYMI: December 11, 2015
News | Dec 4, 2015ICYMI: December 4, 2015
News | Nov 20, 2015ICYMI: November 20, 2015
News | Nov 10, 2015Lung Cancer Prevention at the Kansas State Fair
News | Oct 23, 2015ICYMI: October 23, 2015
News | Oct 2, 2015ICYMI: October 2, 2015
News | Sep 25, 2015ICYMI: September 25, 2015

Preventing cancer is kind of a big deal, right?

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