Risks for Lung Cancer

Most people, if asked, know that there is a connection between lung cancer and smoking. They would probably even assume that almost anyone who has lung cancer must be a smoker. It is important to understand what the other risk factors associated with lung cancer are, and to be aware of your risk of developing lung cancer.

Many Other Factors – Second Hand Smoke

While over 80% of all lung cancer deaths are the result of smoking, this leaves approximately 20% that aren’t. It is important to understand what risk factors other than smoking may cause lung cancer. Second hand smoke is one major risk factor for developing lung cancer. If you live with a smoker, and you inhale second hand smoke on a regular basis, you are certainly at a higher risk for developing lung cancer than is a person who doesn’t live around a smoker. Living with a smoker, you run a 30% higher risk of developing lung cancer than does your friend who doesn’t live with a smoker.

Marijuana Use

While most people think about cigarettes and cigars as they relate to lung cancer, they often forget about marijuana. It is very difficult to determine whether or not there is an increased risk of developing lung cancer from marijuana. This is because marijuana is illegal, and it is difficult to collect data on its use. Similarly, many marijuana users also smoke cigarettes, so it is difficult to isolate the source of the cancer. Since marijuana contains more tar than it does tobacco, medical reports usually point to the connection between marijuana use and mouth and throat cancer. This is not to say, however, that marijuana is not a risk factor for developing lung cancer; the impact just hasn’t been fully determined at this time.


If someone in your close family, including a sibling or parent, has had lung cancer, you do run a slightly higher risk of developing it than does the general population. It is hard to pinpoint exactly how high the increased risk is, since there are many other factors involved as well. Similarly, if you already have one type of lung cancer, you do run an increased risk of developing another type of lung cancer.

Eating Well

While diet has not, yet, been found to directly link to lung cancer, researchers are exploring diet as a possible risk factor. Both fatty foods and those high in cholesterol may be linked to increased chances of developing lung cancer. Similarly, alcoholic beverages in large quantities may create a risk factor as well; it is hard to isolate this data, as many heavy drinkers are also smokers. It is certainly important to keep a balanced diet and to watch what you eat – it can only help!

Tobacco As The Leading Risk

Finally, as most people assume, tobacco is the leading risk factor for developing lung cancer. Risk factors increase with the length that the person smokes and with amount that they smoke each day. It is very important to know, however, that you can actually reverse these deadly results. If you stop smoking before a cancer has developed, the damaged lung tissue actually starts to regenerate. Ten years after you’ve stopped smoking, you still do run a higher risk for lung cancer – but you’ve dropped your risk by 50% compared to someone who has continued to smoke for those ten years.

While we can’t prevent our genetic make-up, and we can’t prevent every cancer, we can take certain health precautions into our own hands. If you quit smoking, watch your diet, lower your alcohol and marijuana consumption, and avoid second hand smoke, you can help to decrease your risk of developing lung cancer.

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