Lung Cancer

What are the chances?

Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide — around 222,500 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year, mostly among smokers. A growing number of cases are being found in people who never smoked, which means factors like the environment or genetics may be involved.

Common early symptoms:

  • A cough that does not go away
  • Shortness of breath or other breathing problems like wheezing
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit
  • Changes in your voice ie, hoarse, raspy or high pitched
  • Frequent lung infections like pneumonia and bronchitis
  • Arm or shoulder pain
  • Unintended weight loss

Genetic predisposition:

  • Inherited mutations alone are not thought to cause very many lung cancers.

Risk factors/lifestyle factors:

  • Smoking cigarettes is responsible for between 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and women — and the more you smoke, the higher your risk. Just being around cigarette smoke also can affect your risk: Being exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increases the chances of lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.
  • Being exposed to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It occurs naturally in soil, water and rock and can be found in homes, buildings and schools.
  • Asbestos fibers are inhaled and can become lodged in lung tissue. In the past, asbestos used to be a common ingredient in things like building materials, steam pipes, vehicle brake shoes and plastics. Although asbestos was banned as a new material decades ago, it is still present in the environment.
  • Exposure to materials like uranium, arsenic, vinyl chloride, coal products, mustard gas, diesel exhaust and others may increase your risk of lung cancer.
  • Breathing in air pollution like diesel engine exhaust, metals, dust and solvents — found in products like paint, personal care products, nail polish remover and household cleaners — may increase your risk for lung cancer.

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