Man smoking with x-ray lung, Isolated on grey background

Learning About Lung Cancer Risks

Although the risk factors of lung cancer are well-documented, it remains the second-most common type of cancer in both men and women, not including skin cancer.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, making it an opportune time to learn more about the disease and reducing your risk of developing it. Skin cancer notwithstanding, lung cancer is the second-most common form in both men (prostate cancer) and in women (breast cancer).

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 80% of deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking. More people die from lung cancer than from breast, prostate and colon cancers combined, with almost 14% of new cancer cases being in the lungs.

Who gets lung cancer?

While the risk is significantly greater for smokers, men overall have a 1 in 15 chance of developing lung cancer, whereas a woman’s risk is about 1 in 17.

Black men have a 20% greater chance of getting lung cancer than white men, while white women develop it at a 10% higher rate than black women. While the prognosis is very serious with lung cancer, it’s much brighter if caught in the early stages: More than 430,000 diagnosed with lung cancer are now cancer-free.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for developing lung cancer include:

  1. Smoking: This is easily the No. 1 risk factor for lung cancer. The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you’ve smoked, the higher your risk. Smoking menthol cigarettes may potentially increase the risk, due to the tobacco’s cooling effect on the throat – which allows the smoker to inhale more deeply.
  2. Race: As mentioned above, black men and white women get lung cancer at higher rates than others.
  3. Age: Because it often forms gradually, the average age of a person diagnosed with lung cancer is 70.
  4. Exposure to radon: This colorless, scentless, radioactive and invisible gas is produced by the breakdown of uranium. It is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. Although it can be found outdoors, it is more highly concentrated indoors, particularly in basements.
  5. Asbestos exposure: Those who work on jobsites such as mills, textile plants, mines, shipyards and places using insulation are several times more likely to get lung cancer than those who do not work in these environments.

If you have some of these risk factors, speak to your doctor about whether getting a CT lung screening may be appropriate.

Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center offers CT lung screenings throughout the year as part of its cancer services. These screenings – which can be part of an annual health checkup routine for those considered high-risk – are meant for past or current smokers, with results reviewed at the time of testing, which costs just $95. For more information, call 740-439-8930.