The number of new cases and deaths from lung cancer is highest in black men.Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may
help prevent lung cancer.
Avoiding cancer risk factors
may help prevent
certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors
such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet
, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.
The following are risk factors for lung cancer:Cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking
smoking is the most important risk factor
for lung cancer
, and pipe
smoking all increase the risk of lung cancer. Tobacco smoking causes about 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer in men and about 8 out of 10 cases of lung cancer in women.
Studies have shown that smoking low tar
or low nicotine
cigarettes does not lower the risk of lung cancer.
Studies also show that the risk of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years smoked. People who smoke have about 20 times the risk of lung cancer compared to those who do not smoke.
Being exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke
is also a risk factor for lung cancer. Secondhand smoke is the smoke that comes from a burning cigarette or other tobacco product, or that is exhaled by smokers. People who inhale secondhand smoke are exposed to the same cancer
-causing agents as smokers, although in smaller amounts. Inhaling
secondhand smoke is called involuntary
or passive smoking.
Having a family history
of lung cancer is a risk factor for lung cancer. People with a relative who has had lung cancer may be twice as likely to have lung cancer as people who do not have a relative who has had lung cancer. Because cigarette smoking tends to run in families and family members are exposed to secondhand smoke, it is hard to know whether the increased risk of lung cancer is from the family history of lung cancer or from being exposed to cigarette smoke.
with the human immunodeficiency virus
(HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
(AIDS), is linked with a higher risk of lung cancer. People infected with HIV may have more than twice the risk of lung cancer than those who are not infected. Since smoking rates are higher in those infected with HIV than in those not infected, it is not clear whether the increased risk of lung cancer is from HIV infection or from being exposed to cigarette smoke.
Environmental risk factors
- Radon exposure: Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. It seeps up through the ground, and leaks into the air or water supply. Radon can enter homes through cracks in floors, walls, or the foundation, and levels of radon can build up in the home.
Studies show that high levels of radon gas inside homes and other buildings increase the number of new cases of lung cancer and the number of deaths caused by lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer is higher in smokers exposed to radon than in nonsmokers exposed to radon. In people who have never smoked, about 30% of deaths caused by lung cancer have been linked to being exposed to radon.
- Workplace exposure: Studies show that being exposed to the following substances increases the risk of lung cancer:Asbestos.
- Tar and soot.
These substances can cause lung cancer in people who are exposed to them in the workplace and have never smoked. As the level of exposure to these substances increases, the risk of lung cancer also increases. The risk of lung cancer is even higher in people who are exposed and also smoke. Air pollution: Studies show that living in areas with higher levels of air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer.
Beta carotene supplements in heavy smokers
Taking beta carotene supplements
(pills) increases the risk of
lung cancer, especially in smokers who smoke one or more packs a day. The risk
is higher in smokers who have at least one alcoholic
drink every day.
The following are protective factors for lung cancer:Not smoking
The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke.
decrease their risk of lung cancer by quitting. In smokers who have been treated for lung cancer, quitting smoking lowers the risk of new lung cancers. Counseling
, the use of
replacement products, and antidepressant therapy
helped smokers quit for good.
In a person who has quit smoking, the chance of preventing lung cancer depends on how many years and how much the person smoked and the length of time since quitting. After a person has quit smoking for 10 years, the risk of lung cancer decreases 30% to 50%.
See the following for more information on quitting smoking:
- Smoking Home Page (Includes help with quitting)
- Cigarette Smoking: Health Risks and How to Quit
Lower exposure to workplace risk factors
Laws that protect workers from being exposed to cancer-causing substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, nickel, and chromium, may help lower their risk of developing lung cancer. Laws that prevent smoking in the workplace help lower the risk of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.
Lower exposure to radon
Lowering radon levels may lower the risk of lung cancer, especially among cigarette smokers. High levels of radon in homes may be reduced by taking steps to prevent radon leakage, such as sealing basements.
It is not clear if the following decrease the risk of lung cancer:Diet
Some studies show that people who eat high amounts of fruits or vegetables have a lower risk of lung cancer than those who eat low amounts. However, since smokers tend to have less healthy diets
than nonsmokers, it is hard to know whether the decreased risk is from having a healthy diet or from not smoking.
Some studies show that people who are physically active have a lower risk of lung cancer than people who are not. However, since smokers tend to have different levels of physical activity than nonsmokers, it is hard to know if physical activity affects the risk of lung cancer.
The following do not decrease the risk of lung cancer:Beta carotene supplements in nonsmokers
Vitamin E supplements
Studies show that taking vitamin E
supplements does not affect the risk of lung cancer.
Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways
to prevent cancer.
Cancer prevention clinical trials
are used to study ways to
lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Some
cancer prevention trials are conducted with healthy people who
have not had cancer but who have an increased risk for cancer.
Other prevention trials are conducted with people who have had
cancer and are trying to prevent another cancer of the same type
or to lower their chance of developing a new type of cancer.
Other trials are done with healthy volunteers who are not known
to have any risk factors for cancer.
The purpose of some cancer prevention clinical trials is to
find out whether actions people take can prevent cancer. These
may include eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, quitting
smoking, or taking certain medicines
New ways to prevent lung cancer are being studied in clinical
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country.
Information about clinical trials can be found in the Clinical Trials
section of the
Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials
for prevention trials for non-small cell lung cancer
and small cell lung cancer
that are now accepting patients. These include trials for quitting smoking.
Changes to This Summary (12/03/2013)
The PDQ cancer
information summaries are reviewed regularly
and updated as new information becomes available. This
section describes the latest changes made to this summary as
of the date above.
Changes were made to this summary to match those made to the health professional version.
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Physician Data Query (PDQ) is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. The PDQ database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries come in two versions. The health professional versions have detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions have cancer information that is accurate and up to date and most versions are also available in Spanish.
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This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about lung cancer prevention. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
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Clinical Trial Information
A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether one treatment is better than another. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients. During treatment clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new treatment and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new treatment is better than one currently being used, the new treatment may become "standard." Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.
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National Cancer Institute: PDQÂ® Lung Cancer Prevention. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/lung/Patient. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
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