Lung Cancer/Anti-Smoking Awareness: Quitting Guide
Helping Someone Quit · New Jersey QuitLine: 866 657 8677
Quitnet.com · Lung Cancer Alliance.org
It’s still true that staying away from tobacco is the most important thing any of us can do to lower our risk of getting lung cancer. But there are also other risk factors of lung cancer in non-smokers:
The leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers is exposure to radon gas, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It accounts for about 21,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. Radon occurs naturally outdoors in harmless amounts, but sometimes becomes concentrated in homes built on soil with natural uranium deposits. Because radon gas can’t be seen or smelled, the only way to know whether it’s a problem in your home is to test for it.
Each year, an estimated 7,330 adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke. Laws that ban smoking in public places have helped to reduce this danger. The nonprofit, nonpartisan American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) is working to further protect both smokers and non-smokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
For some people, the workplace is a source of exposure to carcinogens like asbestos and diesel exhaust. Work-related exposure to such cancer-causing materials has decreased in recent years. But the dangers are still present, and if you work around these agents, you should be careful to limit your exposure whenever possible.
It’s long been known that both indoor and outdoor air pollution contribute to lung cancer. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified outdoor air pollution as a cancer causing agent (carcinogen). Fortunately, the risk of lung cancer associated with air pollution is lower in the US than in many other countries because of policies that have helped to lower the levels of exposure.
Researchers are learning more and more about what causes cells to become cancerous, and how lung cancer cells differ between non-smokers and smokers. For example, a particular kind of gene mutation is much more common in lung cancer in non-smokers than smokers. This mutation activates a gene that normally helps cells grow and divide, then causes the gene to be turned on constantly, so the lung cancer cells grow faster. Knowing which gene changes cause the cells to grow has helped researchers develop targeted therapies, drugs that specifically target these mutations.
Some evidence suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may help protect against lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. But any positive effect of fruits and vegetables on lung cancer risk would be much less than the increased risk from smoking.