During Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November, many conversations center around the lung cancer risk that smoking cigarettes bring. Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, but we want to bring awareness to the other risks of lung cancer that smokers and nonsmokers alike may face in their day-to-day lives.
What is Lung Cancer?
The CDC describes cancer as a disease “in which abnormal cells divide out of control and are able to invade other tissues.” When these out-of-control cells begin in the lungs, it’s diagnosed as lung cancer. Lung cancer can often spread, or metastasize, to a person’s lymph nodes and/or other organs, making it even more dangerous to the body.
There are a few different types of lung cancer, including:
- Adenocarcinoma: This cancer creates mucus in the lungs when cancer cells begin to form in and line its tiny air sacs, or alveoli.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This cancer forms in the lining of the lungs. It is also known as epidermoid carcinoma.
- Large cell carcinoma: This cancer could appear in any part of the lung and begin with any type of large cell.
20% of people who die from lung cancer have never smoked tobacco. Environmental factors such as exposure to harmful toxins, secondhand smoke, and air pollution can all increase your risk. A few of these most toxic materials include:
- Asbestos: This heat-resistant mineral was once popular insulation used in homes and commercial buildings. Asbestos mine workers and those who work closely with the material are most at risk.
- Radon: Radon exposure commonly takes place in residences, schools, and office buildings. Home testing for radon is available, and those that work underground in mines have a greater risk of exposure.
- Uranium: Uranium is a natural radioactive metal that can be found in small amounts in rocks, water, soil, and air. It is used in nuclear weapons and power plants, and may be found in light bulbs, photography chemicals, or ceramic glazes.
There is continuous research on what causes lung cancer, outside of smoking tobacco. Some of the other environmental factors that can increase your risk include:
- Air Pollution: Air pollution involves the particles and toxins like smog, soot, and greenhouse gasses that are released in the air. Recent studies have shown a 30-50% increase in lung cancer rates based on long-term exposure to air pollution.
- Secondhand Smoke: An estimated 7,000 adults die of lung cancer due to secondhand smoke annually. People may experience this kind of prolonged exposure at their customer service job, or at large gatherings where others in attendance are smoking cigarettes.
Lung Cancer Prevention
Though even nonsmokers are at risk for lung cancer, there are steps you can take to prevent it. Radon tests, for example, can show how at-risk you are in your environment, and provide the next steps to making the space safer.
You can also lower your exposure to secondhand smoke by avoiding public areas that allow smoking and restricting others from smoking in your own home and car. If your occupation exposes you to cancer-causing toxins, you can have a conversation with your employer about limiting your exposure and creating a safer work environment.
A CT lung scan is a great way to detect lung cancer in its early stages, especially for patients at higher risk. If you have concerns about getting a CT scan for lung cancer, you can count on Heartland Imaging Centers. Our technologists are here for you during every step and are dedicated to quality patient care and quick and accurate imaging results. Give us a call at (502) 429-6500, or visit our website to schedule an appointment today.