To prevent lung cancer, do not smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths and disease in the United States. Our Cancer Institute team strongly encourages anyone who smokes cigarettes, cigars or pipes, or uses other forms of tobacco, to quit.
Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 87 percent of all lung cancers in the country.
Additional Risk Factors
In addition to smoking, there are several environmental, work-related, lifestyle and hereditary risk factors for lung cancer. Our cancer specialists have extensive experience in treating lung cancer caused by all types of risk factors including:
- Radon: Exposure to radon is the second leading risk factor for lung cancer, associated with 15,000 to 20,000 cases each year in the United States. Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements in rocks and soil that can damage cells that line the lungs and lead to lung cancer.
- Asbestos: These tiny, hair-like fibers found in natural minerals were used for fireproofing and insulating in construction materials and manufacturing processes. When inhaled, the fibers can irritate the lungs and eventually cause lung disease. People who smoke and are exposed to asbestos have a higher risk for lung cancer.
- Industrial and chemical substances: Exposure to substances such as arsenic, uranium, coal products, mustard gas, ethers, gasoline and diesel exhaust may increase risk for lung cancer.
- Family history or genetics: These factors play a role in the development of lung cancer through inherited or environmentally acquired gene mutations.
- Radiation exposure: X-rays of the chest area can increase risk of lung cancer, especially in people who smoke.
- Air pollution: Contains trace amounts of diesel exhaust, coal products and other industrial substances.
- Tuberculosis: Causes scarring of lung tissue that can be a risk factor for developing lung cancer.
- Military service: Veterans and active-duty personnel exposed to industrial substances, asbestos, air pollution or tactical chemicals, such as Agent Orange, may be at higher risk for lung cancer.
- No known risk: Approximately 15 percent of patients with lung cancer do not have any known risk factors for the disease.