Lung Cancer – What are the risks?

November 12, 2012

Lung Cancer – What are the risks?

Smokers are mainly at risk from lung cancer but there are other groups amongst the 7% of all deaths in the UK each year. Lung cancer is by far the biggest cancer killer, killing more people than leukaemia, breast cancer, prostrate cancer and bladder cancer added together. This means that 25% of all cancer deaths in the UK are lung cancer. However about 12% of lung cancer sufferers have never smoked in their lives. Of all the people who started smoking in their teens 4 out of every 10 will not survive to pensionable age.

Most people are aware of the risks of smoking and how your chances of getting lung cancer if you’re a smoker rise quite considerably. However other factors also affect your risks, if you have been subjected to second hand smoke, poor diet or genetics. Perhaps your family has a history of lung cancer. Exposure to asbestos and other industrials chemicals and exposure to radon all increase your risk of developing lung cancer.

Many people are not aware that lung cancer can be cured if treatment happens at an early enough stage.

Who’s at risk?

If you smoke then you will be aware that you’re in the highest risk group to develop lung cancer. However more research is indicating the passive smoking (second hand smoke) is also risky too, it comes in second in the league table of risks! Other things that can increase the risk of developing lung cancer include exposure to asbestos and radon, a poor diet and genetics.

How to lower your risk

Being a non smoker who has never been subjected to passive smoking and eating a healthy diet will certainly take you into the very low risk group.But even if you were a smoker but have stopped the risk becomes lower. In fact as soon as you stop the risk starts to decrease. If you stopped 15 years ago then you are in almost the same risk bracket as someone who has never smoked.

To help stop smoking there are now many treatments available from nicotine replacement therapies to drugs which your doctor must prescribe. These drugs are called Zyban and Champix and these are helpful to those who wish to stop smoking. Most surgeries will have details of support groups and may even have advisors to assist in your quest to become a non smoker.

Passive smoking

You should avoid passive smoking as much as possible as it is estimated that 20% to 30% of those exposed to second hand smoke increase their risks of developing lung cancer. And the risk increases with the frequency of your exposure, higher exposure means higher risk. If you were subjected to second hand smoke in your childhood then you have an increased level of risk of lung cancer when you are older than a child brought up smoke free.

Smoking at home can be more dangerous because the poisonous chemicals have nowhere to go and are present for longer. Good ventilation helps but it is better to refrain from smoking at home and friends and family should understand this too.

Radon gas in your home

Although it is a natural phenomenon radon gas is believed to contribute to about 10% of the cases of lung cancer in the UK.However this is not a spread over the country, there are a few hotspots. Anywhere that granite is present in large amounts appears to produce radon. This means that many cases occur from the West Country and the Peak District. The vast majority of dwellings in the UK have minimal radon present. The Health Protection Agency can advise you if you believe that your home is being exposed to high levels of radon and what actions to take to minimise risks.

Improve your Lifestyle

By staying active, that means doing two and a half hours a week of moderate aerobic exercise, you can reduce your risk of many diseases and conditions including cancer. Any exercise is good, do whatever you enjoy, it can be swimming, dancing, tennis or just a brisk walk or even a bit of heavy gardening. As long as it gets you a bit breathless then it is beneficial.

Make sure that your diet includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Many researchers indicate that this may help inhibit some types of cancer, including lung cancer. Always get your 5 a Day!

Avoid asbestos

Builders and anyone in the building trades may be exposed to asbestos at work. As long as you can recognise asbestos and are aware of the precautions to take when handling it then the cancer-causing dust is not dangerous to you. Precautions normally include facemask and protective clothing.


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