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The true causes of lung cancer

Smoking tops the list of causes of lung cancer, worldwide. According to researchers who have assessed various risk factors associated with the disease, there are several possible culprits that can be identified in specific cases of lung cancer. Some of them are:

  • Smoking (of course!)
  • Asbestos exposure (this mostly leads to a kind of cancer called mesothelioma)
  • Radon exposure
  • Exposure to polluted atmospheric or indoor air
  • Having a family history of cancer
  • Exposure to diseases affecting the lung
  • Age (cancer risk increases with age)
These are some of the leading causes of lung cancer. A smoker being exposed to any of the other risk factors will face greatly enhanced risks of developing lung cancer. He or she may also develop other serious health complications.

Research studies have found connections between air pollutants (those caused by burning fossil fuels like diesel and gasoline) and lung cancer.

Burning fossil fuels of various kinds releases particles that often irritate the tissues within the lung. These tissues are quire sensitive to such irritants and can become damaged over a period of time. Smoke that contains residues of dangerous chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides and other substances also irritate lung tissue. They have been identified as causing many other health problems as well.

Apart from that, atmospheric pollutants and smoke often contains carcinogens (substances that cause cancer). These carcinogens can result in cancerous growths in areas other than the lung as well -- such as the mouth, throat, etc.

Among the causes of lung cancer are included substances like radon, asbestos, arsenic, diesel fuel and uranium.

Being affected by diseases like tuberculosis and emphysema can increase the chances of getting lung cancer. These diseases leave scars in the lung tissue -- these scars may later become sites for development of lung cancer. The BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guérin) vaccine is used to vaccinate against developing tuberculosis. This bacterium is also used to treat cancer patients by stimulating their immune system.

One of the big causes of lung cancer is having a pervious history of lung cancer. Someone who has had the disease once -- perhaps in one lung -- is considerably more likely to develop the disease in the other lung as well. This risk is greatly enhanced if the person is a smoker. Quitting smoking can help such a person reduce his risks.

Age is a major risk factor for this disease. Very few people below the age 40 have lung cancers. The figure for this age group is less than one in three thousand. In contrast, lung cancer affects about one in hundred people in the 40-59 age group. Among those aged 50 or more, lung cancer affects about one in twenty. As you can see the chances of coming down the lung cancer increases dramatically with age.

Research efforts to clearly identify a gene that causes lung cancer have not been successful. Nevertheless, many medical professionals believe that an increased risk of developing the disease may run in families. Even if this is true, such lung cancers may occur in only around 1-2% of all lung cancers.

Scientists have not yet identified a gene or genes linked directly to lung cancer. Some researchers believe that susceptibility to lung or other types of cancer may run in families and be passed onto offspring. However, further research is required to determine this. Even if this does turn out to be true, it is believed that familial lung cancer would account for no more than 1-2% of lung cancers.

Those are the leading causes of lung cancer. In the coming years, scientists may uncover fresh answers to the question what causes lung cancer and help in combating this disease.

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