Environmental Causes of Lung Cancer

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Environmental Causes of Lung Cancer

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:51 pm

Environmental Causes of Lung Cancer

By Lynne Eldridge, MD
Updated April 21, 2016

Many environmental exposures - not just cigarette smoke - can raise the risk of developing lung cancer. And, like smoking, many of these are avoidable if we are aware of them. You can reduce your risk by doing things as simple as testing your home for radon, and using an appropriate mask when working with certain chemicals. Some of the most common environmental causes of lung cancer include:

Exposure to radon in the home is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause in nonsmokers.

It's estimated that around 21,000 people develop lung cancer from radon each year -- a cancer with a 5-year survival rate of only 15%. To put this in perspective, around 39,000 women die from breast cancer each year.

Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced by the natural decay of uranium in the soil. It can enter homes through cracks in the foundation, around sump pumps and drains and through gaps around pipes and wires. Having been found in homes in all 50 states, the only way to know if you are safe is to test your home for radon. Simple do-it-yourself test kits are available at most hardware stores.

More About Radon and Lung Cancer
Radon Testing
Radon Mitigation

Exposure to asbestos is ordinarily considered an occupational exposure, but working with asbestos insulation in older homes (those built prior to 1970) can result in exposure too. Asbestos is responsible for roughly 84% of cases of mesothelioma, a cancer involving the lining of the lungs, and is responsible for other forms of lung cancer as well.

Left alone, asbestos poses little danger, but exposure can result if it is disturbed. If you choose to remodel a home that may contain asbestos insulation, hire a certified contractor.

Air Pollution
Air pollution has been looked at as a possible risk factor for lung cancer, because there is a significant difference between the incidence of lung cancer in urban and rural areas, with lung cancer being more prevalent in urban areas.

It is uncertain to what degree air pollution contributes to lung cancer in the United States, but according to the largest study to date, more than 10% of lung cancers in Europe may be secondary to air pollution.

More About Air Pollution and Lung Cancer

Industrial Chemicals
As with asbestos, most exposures to cancer-causing chemicals occur in the workplace. Certain products used in the home, such as some wood strippers, contain chemicals that are associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. It's important to read labels on any of these products and take appropriate precautions as directed on the packaging.

Radiation Exposure

Exposure to medical radiation to the chest for other cancers, for example Hodgkin’s lymphoma or breast cancer, can increase the risk of lung cancer, although the benefits of treatment usually far outweigh this risk. In Japan, exposure to atomic bomb radiation was associated with an elevated risk of developing lung cancer.

Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer in an exposed nonsmoker two- to- three-fold times.

It is currently felt to be responsible for 1.6% of lung cancers in the United States (roughly 3,000 cases per year.)

More About Secondhand Smoke and Lung Cancer

Wood Smoke
Exposure to wood smoke may increase the risk of lung cancer. Converting from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces to other options, such as gas fireplaces, is one way to reduce this risk.


ACS. Radiation Exposure and Cancer. Accessed 04/21/16. http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/conte ... Cancer.asp

Boffetta, P. Human cancer from environmental pollutants: the epidemiological evidence. 2006. Mutation Research. 608(2):157-62.

CDC. NIOSH Carcinogen List. Accessed 06/02/12. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/cancer/npotocca.html

Delgado, J. et al. Lung cancer pathogenesis associated with wood smoke exposure. 2005. Chest. 128(1):6-8.

Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos. Updated 12/04/15. http://www.epa.gov/asbestos/pubs/help.html

Environmental Protection Agency. Radon. Updated 04/14/16. http://www.epa.gov/radon/

Nafstad, P. et al. Lung Cancer and air pollution: a 27 year follow up of 16209 Norwegian men. 2003. Thorax. 58(12):1010-2.

https://www.verywell.com/environmental- ... er-2248974
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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