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These Factors Are Secretly Increasing Your Lung Cancer Risk

Here’s how to keep your lungs healthy.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death in the US.  "In 2020, an estimated 228,820 persons were diagnosed with lung cancer, and 135 ,720 persons died of the disease," says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. What are the factors secretly placing you at risk? Read on to learn about factors that increase your risk of getting lung cancer—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


These Factors Increase Lung Cancer Risk

chemical plant near water

Major risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Radon exposure
  • Air pollution
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Being a male over the age of 55

Smoking and second-hand exposure are risk factors since they cause lung cancer by damaging the cells in the lung. Radon is a gas that is formed when uranium decays and can seep into homes through cracks in the foundation. Radiation also causes lung cancer by damaging the cells in the lung. Asbestos is a mineral that was used in building materials and insulation until the 1970s. Air pollution contains tiny particles that too can damage the lungs. Being a male over the age of 55 increases the risk for lung cancer since men are more likely to smoke than women.


Here Is What You Should Do to Decrease Your Lung Cancer Risk

Hand stubbed out cigarette in a transparent ashtray on wooden table

Decreasing your risk factors involves:

  • stopping smoking and not being around areas where there is smoke
  • using radon detectors to determine levels where you live
  • getting a CT of the chest if you have had asbestos exposure
  • being around clean air or using filters to decrease air pollution

Watch These 5 Early Signs of Lung Cancer

Sick woman coughing, experiencing hiccup.

The early signs of lung cancer are persistent coughing, coughing up blood, chest pain, shortness of breath, and unintentional weight loss. Many non-cancer diseases can cause these symptoms including infection and smoking and its consequences. Even some medications can cause the 5 early signs of lung cancer.

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What to Do if You Notice These Symptoms

Male doctor and his patient shaking hands in the hospital.

If you have any of these symptoms it is important to see your doctor. Chances are that the symptoms may be due to a non-cancer cause. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best way to increase your chances of surviving lung cancer.

RELATED: Doing This After Age 60 is "Unhealthy," Say Physicians


How Often You Should Get Tested

Doctor explaining lungs x-ray on computer screen to patient

"The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual screening for lung cancer with LDCT in adults aged 50 to 80 years who have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history. Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Gethin Williams MD Ph.D. is the Medical Director of Imaging & Interventional Specialists.

Gethin Williams, MD, Ph.D
Gethin Williams, MD, Ph.D. is the Medical Director of Imaging & Interventional Specialists. Read more about Gethin
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