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Lung Cancer: How to Reduce Your Risk

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. Smoking is believed to cause 80-90 percent of lung cancer cases, but there are several additional risk factors.

You can reduce your risk of developing lung cancer by following this guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Have your home tested for radon and take corrective actions if high levels are discovered.
  • Be aware of your exposure to radiation from medical imaging, especially images of the chest.
  • Follow health and safety guidelines when working with toxic materials such as asbestos.
  • Avoid diesel exhaust and other harmful air pollutants.

Different people experience different symptoms of lung cancer. Some symptoms may include shortness of breath; coughing that doesn’t go away; wheezing; coughing up blood; chest pain; and repeated respiratory infections.

If you have symptoms that concern you, see your doctor.

Changing the Stigma of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is often known as the “smoker’s disease” even though one in five victims of lung cancer have never smoked a cigarette. The annual death toll among this group now approaches that of breast cancer, about 40,000 a year.

Non-smoking women are twice as likely to get lung cancer as non-smoking men, and non-smoking women are more than twice as likely to die from lung cancer than ovarian cancer.

Even with these high numbers, spending on research for lung cancer is far below that of breast cancer. As a result, experts are calling for a shift in public thinking on lung cancer.

Many experts believe that the stigma around smoking that accompanies lung cancer — that its victims somehow “brought it on themselves” — has dampened public sympathy for patients and hindered funding for research.

Still, even with limited funding, scientists are slowly uncovering clues to the origins of lung cancer in non-smokers. Early research seems to indicate that lung cancer tumors could be somehow related to estrogen levels in women.

Learn more about the research scientists are doing around lung cancer.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Here are resources for learning about symptoms, treatment and clinical trials.