what causes lung cancer - the risk factors
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What causes lung cancer? The four major risk factors

There is a one word answer to the question "what causes lung cancer". The answer is - smoking.

Of course, there are other causes of lung cancer as well. Some of them include exposure to asbestos, polluted air, radon, etc. Let's check out some of the key lung cancer risk factors in more detail. This will provide a more comprehensive answer to "what causes lung cancer".

Risk factor #1: Cigarette smoking
As noted elsewhere on this site, fully nine out of ten cases of lung cancer develop because the patient is a smoker or has been a smoker. Smoking has a very strong correlation with this dreaded disease. If you are a smoker, that should be reason enough to quit smoking right now.

To give you some statistics, if you are a regular smoker who smokes one pack of cigarettes a day, your chances of developing lung cancer is twenty five times higher as compared to that of someone who is a non smoker.

If you smoke two packs a day, your probability of dying from lung cancer is as much as one in seven. If you smoke cigars or pipes, your chances of getting this disease are five times as much as that of someone who has never smoked.

Cigarette smoking has as an accumulative effect on your lungs. With every cigarette smoked, the risk of developing cancer goes up due to increased cell damage within your lungs.

The good news is, the moment you stop smoking, your lungs begin the task of repairing themselves. They replace unhealthy, tobacco-damaged cells with normal, healthy cells. The risk of developing lung cancer begins to decrease from the time you stop smoking. And it continues to drop over the years, with each passing year. It is estimated that by the end of the fifteenth year from the time you quit smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer are no greater than that of someone who never smoked in his life.

Risk factor #2: Second hand smoke
This is closely related to smoking. Second hand smoke carries a high concentration of carcinogens and other dangerous substances. If you regularly inhale second hand smoke (this situation is also known as passive smoking), you partake in many of the risks that accrue to smokers. Some studies say that the risk of getting lung cancer increases by twenty four percent for passive smokers as compared to those never exposed to cigarette smoke.

In America, there are an estimated three thousand deaths annually that are attributed to second hand smoke.

Risk factor #3: Exposure to asbestos
Asbestos exposure is a known risk factor for mesothelioma (this is a cancer that affects the lung's pleural linings).

In many countries, asbestos was a widely used construction material till the 1960s. Asbestos was also present in many products used on a daily basis. The risks associated with asbestos were not widely known then.

The problem with asbestos is that it releases fine silica fibers into the air. When these fibers are inhaled, they get trapped within the lung tissues and cause mesothelioma. In fact, mesothelioma does not develop in anyone who has never been exposed to asbestos in one form or the other.

There are also key differences between smoker and non smokers. A non smoker exposed to asbestos has a five times higher risk of developing lung cancer compared to a non smoker who has not been exposed to asbestos. A smoker exposed to asbestos has a fifty to ninety time greater risk as compared to a non smoker who never went near asbestos!

Risk factor #4: Exposure to radon
Radon is a gas created by the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium. According to estimates of the US Environmental Protection Agency, about one in seven homes in America have unsafe levels of radon. Around 12% of all deaths from lung cancer are estimated to be due to radon exposure.

These are the major risk factors in developing lung cancer. Together, they explain most of the lung cancer cases that occur and provide a more or less complete answer to the question "what causes lung cancer".


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