Advertisement

What increases my risk for lung cancer?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The main risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, with approximately 90 percent of lung cancers being caused by this behavior. A person’s risk for getting lung cancer increases as the amount they smoke, and how long they smoke, increase. Other risk factors for lung cancer include exposure to secondhand smoke, alcohol consumption, air pollution, work exposure to cancer causing chemicals such as silica and asbestos, and a family history of lung cancer.

Though regular cigarette smokers are at the highest risk, even those who haven't smoked but have spent a significant amount of time around secondhand smoke—the smoke from other people—can also develop lung cancer. In some cases, people can develop lung cancer without either of those factors. In those cases, the cause is unknown.

Eighty-seven percent of all cancers of the lung, trachea (windpipe), and bronchi (large airways) are linked to tobacco use, especially cigarette smoking. Exposure to certain environmental carcinogens (substances that cause cancer) also increases your risk of lung cancer.

Doctors aren't sure exactly what causes lung cancer, but they do know that the main risk factor is cigarette smoking. Lung cancer is also more common as people get older and if there is lung cancer in the family.

However, people may get lung cancer even without risk factors, just as some people with risk factors may never get lung cancer. For smokers, the best way to reduce the risk of getting lung cancer is by not smoking, which helps at any age. Even if a smoker gets lung cancer, stopping smoking can help with treatment.

Continue Learning about Lung Cancer

How Lung Cancer Can Impact Sleep and What to do About It
How Lung Cancer Can Impact Sleep and What to do About It
Sleep is essential to good health, and adequate amounts of sleep are important to cognitive function, cardiovascular health, energy levels, cellular r...
Read More
Lung Cancer: How to Get the Most Out of Treatment
Lung Cancer: How to Get the Most Out of Treatment
Lung cancer treatment can take a considerable toll on patients, both physically and mentally. Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your...
Read More
Does a PET Scan That Shows Lung Nodules Mean Cancer?
Does a PET Scan That Shows Lung Nodules Mean Cancer?
What Determines My Odds of Surviving Lung Cancer?
What Determines My Odds of Surviving Lung Cancer?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.