As part of lung cancer awareness month, the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is attempting to shed light on some lesser known facts about the disease, including its causes, potential new treatments, and challenges in attaining funding for lung cancer treatment and research. In this post we'd like to explore lung cancer causes. While cigarette smoking remains the number one cause of lung cancer, there are others risk factors many may not be aware of that have nothing to do with smoking. Knowing all the risk factors can help us as we try to finally eradicate this difficult disease. Let's explore each risk factor in detail below.

Smoking

As many are aware, cigarette smoking causes lung cancer. In fact, smoking represents the single most common risk factor for the development of lung cancers. According the Center for Disease Control, about 85% of all lung cancer deaths in the United States each year are attributed to smoking. There was a time when the facts regarding the risks of smoking were widely known among the public. That is not the case today, as tobacco companies are being held accountable for their hazardous products. The facts are now clear. Those who smoke are 10-20 times more likely to get lung cancer than those who don't smoke. If you smoke, quit today! For those who need help quitting, there are several programs available to you. Find out more about smoking cessation programs here. (http://www.smokefree.gov/) Even for those who don't smoke, the presence of secondhand smoke represents a significant risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Remember, they're your lungs. Encourage your friends or family to quit or keep it away from you!

Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas. Radon is generated through the normal decay cycle of of uranium in soil and bedrock. Like all hazardous radioactive material, radiation particles are released and can damage cells lining the lungs. This process can lead to lung cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, radon gas is second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the United States, accounting for between 15,000 and 25,000 fatalities. Radon is present in nearly all air, though it is much more hazardous in higher concentrations. Cracks in older buildings, homes, or other structures allow for radon to enter and concentrate, particularly in structures that are well insulated or tightly sealed. Radon gas is odorless and tasteless. Professional testing for radon is part of most comprehensive home and structural inspections and is the only to know if a hazard exists. Radon reduction services are able to reduce radon exposure risks. Cost of reduction services typically depend on the size and age of a home or other building. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency's resources on radon to learn more (http://www.epa.gov/radon/index.html)

Asbestos

Many are unaware that in addition to mesothelioma, those exposed to asbestos are also at elevated risk for traditional lung carcinomas. Asbestos, which is a naturally occurring class of six fibrous minerals, was used for many years in different industrial and commercial products as an insulation component. Asbestos fibers are microscopic and easily woven into material of used in joint, concrete, cement, or even paint compounds. Asbestos fibers, upon inhalation, irritate lung tissue and cause malignancies. Like many respiratory conditions, smoking only exacerbates the risk of cancer in those exposed to asbestos.

Additional Risk Factors

In addition to those above, other contributing factors to lung cancer have been noted by physicians. Like many cancers, lung cancer is more common in those with a family disposition to lung cancer. While second-hand smoke could be partially responsible, according the International Agency for Research on Cancer, presence of certain genetic factors, including the q-arm of chromosome 15 which reacts with nicotine, leave individuals more susceptible to the disease. Air pollution can also contribute to lung cancer susceptibility. In fact, it is estimated that 1% of all lung cancers are attributed to pollution from vehicles, industry, and power plants.

What Can I Do To Prevent Lung Cancer?

  • - Don't smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
  • - Have your home or office inspected for the presence of radon and asbestos. If dangerous levels of either are found, look to have them sealed off or abated.
  • - Learn about the history of lung cancer in your family. Be aware of the warning signs
  • - Learn about the air quality where you and your family live and seek ways to better it by supporting green efforts.