Reviewed by Bronwyn Long, DNP, MBA, RN, Jeffrey Kern, MD, Laurie L. Carr, MD

lung cancer infographicThere are a variety of lung cancer causes and risk factors. A risk factor for lung cancer is something that increases your chance of developing lung cancer. Lung cancer risk factors that may cause you to have an increased risk of developing lung cancer include the following:

  • You currently smoke - Smoking is the most common risk factor for developing lung cancer. The longer a person smokes and the more often they smoke, the higher the risk of developing lung cancer. Your doctor quantifies your smoking exposure by calculating the number of years you have smoked multiplied by the average number of packs of cigarettes you smoked per day to come up with "Pack-Years". The risk of developing lung cancer is lowered after giving up smoking, but never completely goes away.
  • You are exposed to second-hand smoke - Second-hand exposure to smoke or being around smoke increases the risk of lung cancer.
  • You are exposed to radon gas, often in the home or mining work - Radon is a radioactive colorless, odorless gas that comes from uranium found in granite rock. Radon is more common in certain parts of the country.
  • You are exposed to asbestos and other substances, often at work.
  • There is a history of lung cancer in your immediate family.
  • There is a personal history of a previous lung cancer.
  • You had radiation therapy for another type of cancer, especially if the radiation therapy is in the chest area.
  • You are over 65 years of age.

Having several risk factors further increases your risk of developing lung cancer. If a person who smokes is also exposed to asbestos, then the risk of developing lung cancer is increased further than if that person had only been exposed to one lung cancer risk factor.

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