Top Causes of Lung Cancer

Think you’re safe from lung cancer because you don’t smoke? Think again.

Worldwide, there are more cases of lung cancer worldwide than colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined, making it by far the most common cancer in the world. It’s also one of the most deadly, with more than half of those with lung cancer passing away within a year of diagnosis.

While smoking continues to be the greatest risk factor for lung cancer, there are other less-known risks as well. Here are the top four causes of lung cancer.

1. Smoking

An overwhelming 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and 90 percent in men are attributed to smoking. Women who smoke are 13 times more likely to get lung cancer and men who smoke are 23 times more likely. The longer you smoke and the more packs you smoke, the greater your risk. Many of the 4,000 chemicals found in cigarettes are known carcinogens (they cause cancer). While cigarettes pose the greatest risk, smoking pipes and cigars also increases your chances of getting the horrible disease.

Unfortunately, it’s not just those who smoke who are at risk, but the innocent family, friends, and coworkers who passively inhale second-hand smoke. People who live with someone who smokes have a 20 to 30 percent greater risk of developing lung cancer than other nonsmokers.

2. Radon

The second most common cause of lung cancer may be hiding undetected in your home. Radon is a natural radioactive gas that’s formed when uranium in soil, water, or rock decays. The gas can’t be seen, tasted, or smelled, but if your home is built on soil or rock that contains uranium, radon is likely seeping up through the foundation, cracks, drains, or pipes and into the air you breath while you sleep and spend time at home. It’s estimated that 10 to 12 percent of lung cancers are caused by exposure to radon. Smokers who are exposed to radon have an even greater likelihood of getting lung cancer.

A simple and inexpensive test kit can detect the presence of radon. You can perform the test yourself or hire a professional radon tester. If the results show high levels of radon, your home may require special repairs.

3. Occupational Exposure

You’re just trying to make a living, but in the process increase your risk for lung cancer. Anywhere from 6 to 29 percent of lung cancers in men are attributed to on-the-job exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals including arsenic, diesel fumes, asbestos, silica, wood dust, aluminum, cadmium, radon, mustard gas, vinyl chloride, benzene, toluene, and second-hand smoke. What jobs expose employees to such dangerous chemicals? Chemists, painters, printers, mason workers, truck drivers, glass manufacturers, miners, ironworkers, and sandblasters are a few careers that up your exposure to toxic materials.

As with radon, smoking in addition to experiencing hazardous material exposure greatly increases your risk of lung cancer. In fact, people who work with asbestos and smoke are 50 to 90 times more likely to get lung cancer.

Employers are required by law to educate their employees on the risks associated with their job and the safety precautions necessary to prevent exposure to carcinogenic materials.

4. Polluted Air

A small percentage (one percent) of lung cancer deaths are traced back to breathing polluted air. Prolonged exposure to vehicle exhaust, factory pollution, and power plant and industry emissions all contribute to the high number of cases of lung cancer.

Unfortunately, the only remedy for avoiding pollution-related lung cancer is moving away from areas with bad air quality.