What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?

• Smoking. Cigarette smoking is the greatest risk factor for lung cancer. About 90% of lung cancer is attributed to cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoke contains 60 known carcinogens, including aromatic hydrocarbons, n-nitrosamines, and volatile organic hydrocarbons. These carcinogens from the smoke can injure chromosomes and induce gene mutations in pulmonary cells, increasing the risk of lung cancer. In addition to lung cancer, smoking is also associated with oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, urinary bladder cancer, kidney cancer, endometrial cancer, stomach cancer, blood cancer, and liver cancer.

• Radon. Radon is a radioactive gas released naturally from igneous rocks. Radon gas, which is tasteless and odorless, can emit alpha radiation. Upon being inhaled into the lungs, alpha radiation from radon gas injures lung cells and causes DNA breakage and gene mutations of pulmonary cells. One of every 15 houses in the US has an unsafe level of radon gas.

• Asbestos. Asbestos in the air enters the lungs and causes injuries to the cells and tissues of the lungs. It accumulates in the pleural mesothelial layer of the lungs and induces mesothelioma. Asbestos in alveoli cells affects cell division and induces abnormalities in the chromosomes of alveoli cells, leading to lung cancer.

• Arsenic. Arsenic, a known carcinogen, comes from contaminated drinking water. Drinking arsenic-contaminated water is one of the reasons some nonsmokers are afflicted with lung cancer.

• Diesel. Exhaust from diesel engines contains carcinogens. Workers who are exposed to exhaust from diesel engines—such as railroad workers, operators of heavy machinery, miners, and truck drivers— have an increased risk of lung cancer.