Lung Cancer Prevention

What Should You Know About Lung Cancer Prevention?

mother kissing her baby
How can you lower your risk for lung cancer?.

Lung cancer prevention is a critical topic since lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women worldwide. It is estimated that 90 percent of lung cancer could be prevented through action and awareness.

Smoking accounts for the majority of preventable lung cancers, but non-smokers can take action to lower their risk as well. One in five women who develop lung cancer have never smoked, and lung cancer is actually increasing in young never-smoking women.

Those who have already been diagnosed with lung cancer should not despair. There are things you can do yourself to improve survival as well.

Smoking Cessation

Smoking is responsible for 85 percent of lung cancers in the United States, though it's important to note that the majority of people who develop lung cancer today are past smokers, not current smokers. Quitting smoking at any time can lower the risk of developing lung cancer, and appears to increase survival for people with lung cancer as well.

Radon Exposure

Exposure to radon in the home is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, and the number one cause in non-smokers. Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that results from the normal decay of radium in the soil. Inexpensive test kits are available at most hardware stores and should be placed in the lowest level of living space in the home. If the results are abnormal, the Environmental Protection Agency can provide assistance in repairing the problem.

Secondhand Smoke

Exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers two to three fold.


Workplace exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, and combined with smoking the risk is exponential.

Employers should have safety recommendations for those exposed. Homes built prior to 1970 may contain asbestos insulation. Left alone, this insulation is rarely of concern, but a contractor that is certified to work with asbestos should be consulted when remodeling.

Chemical and Occupational Exposures

Several chemicals used in industry and around homes may increase the risk of lung cancer. Labels on home products such as wood stripper, and Material Safety Data Sheets provided by employers, provide information on safe exposure and proper masks to use to limit exposure.

Diet and Exercise

A healthy diet and moderate physical activity both play a role in lung cancer prevention.

Genetics and Lung Cancer

You can't change your genetics, but there are some things you can do to lower your risk, even if you have a genetic predisposition to lung cancer.

Having a family history raises risk, with those who have a first-degree relative having double the risk of developing the disease. Now that we have a lung screening tool available, those with a strong family history should talk with their doctors. In addition, having a family history may be just the extra incentive needed to be cautious with more risk factors. For example, women who carry the "breast cancer gene mutation" BRCA2 have double the risk of lung cancer if they also smoke.

Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers

It is very important to note again that, in addition to lung cancer being more common in former smokers than current smokers, lung cancer DOES occur in people who have never smoked. Remember that anyone who has lung can get lung cancer.

Learn More About Lung Cancer Prevention

This article only begins to touch on some of the causes of lung cancer. For those who are interested in learning about additional causes, as well as further things you can do to lower your risk, check out these articles:


American Cancer Society. What are the risk factors for small cell lung cancer? Updated 02/26/16.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer? Updated 12/01/15.

National Cancer Institute. Lung Cancer Prevention (PDQ). Health Professional Version. Updated 02/11/16.

Environmental Protection Agency. Radon. Updated 05/17/16.

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