What increases my risk for small cell lung cancer?

Small-cell lung cancer makes up only 15 percent of all lung cancers and has one of the strongest associations with smoking. About 98 percent of small-cell lung cancers are found in smokers. Exposure to uranium mines or radon also increases the risk. The most common age for small-cell lung cancer to be diagnosed is between 60 and 80 years.

Although most cases of lung cancer are diagnosed after age 45, diagnosis does not usually happen until symptoms are apparent, long after the cancer first developed. Several factors affect your risk of developing small cell lung cancer. By far the most important risk factor to consider is smoking, which accounts for 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell). Risk from smoking accumulates over time, so the longer and more frequently you smoke, the more likely you are to get lung cancer. As soon as you quit smoking, your risk begins to diminish.

Other risk factors include second-hand smoke, smoking marijuana, exposure to asbestos or radon, air pollution, radiation treatments directed at your chest to destroy other cancers, and personal and family history.

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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.