How to Reduce Lung Cancer Risk
Earlier this month, the world recognized lung cancer awareness day, August 1st.
Lung cancer is devastating.
It’s the most deadly form of cancer, accounting for roughly a quarter of all cancer deaths. Nearly two million people died worldwide from lung cancer in 2020.
As public awareness has grown around the harms of smoking, lung cancer rates have thankfully dropped, but not enough.
What will it take to stop lung cancer?
While cancer, which begins as a cell mutation, may never be entirely eradicated, there are several things we can do to help reduce lung cancer rates and related deaths.
Taking down lung cancer depends on two critical actions: tobacco cessation and early detection.
1) Eliminating tobacco use
According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is behind up to 90% of cancer deaths.
Smoke in general is carcinogenic — many of the chemical compounds created from burning things are toxic. But tobacco smoke is especially nasty, with at least 70 cancer causing chemicals. This makes pipe and cigar use extremely risky as well.
Sidenote: Nicotine, the addictive chemical in tobacco products, is not a known carcinogen. “So,” you may wonder, “is smokeless tobacco safe?” (Snuff, chewing tobacco, etc.) No. Smokeless tobacco products contain over twenty-five cancer causing compounds. There is no tobacco product safe for human health.
Even just occasional smoking increases lung cancer risk. Cancer risk goes up the more a person smokes. If a smoker stops the habit, they are still at an increased risk for lung cancer, but less risk than if they continued.
Secondhand smoke increases cancer risk, too
It can be easy for folks to believe unhealthy habits harm only themselves. With smoking, this is clearly untrue:
- Exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with more than 40,000 deaths per year.
- Secondhand smoke increases the risk of asthma attacks, heart disease, stroke, and early death
2) Preventing deaths with early detection
Lung cancer is one of the most difficult forms to treat, and does not always respond well to cancer treatments. Successful treatment depends on early detection.
Lung cancer symptoms include:
- Changes in mucus
- New chest or back pains
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty swallowing
But waiting until symptoms present may not be soon enough. Screening is recommended for high-risk adults with no symptoms. The American Cancer Society recommends all smokers — current and former — undergo a low-dose CT scan.
Because the lungs are so sensitive to radiation, lung cancer screening is not recommended for generally healthy, low-risk populations.
In closing: 4 actions for lung cancer prevention
- Stop smoking (or never start)
- Avoid secondhand smoke (and, if you smoke, please consider the risk to those around you)
- Eat a nutritious diet (vitamins and antioxidants found in a wholesome diet may help protect against lung and heart diseases)
- Have your home tested for radon (a naturally occurring, cancer-causing gas and the second leading cause of lung cancer)
Lets work together for a world with less cancer. Stay safe, avoid carcinogens, and help educate those you know.