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Lung Cancer Prevention


Updated April 22, 2014

Lung cancer prevention is a critical topic, since lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women worldwide. It is estimated that 90% of lung cancer could be prevented through action and awareness. Smoking accounts for the majority of preventable lung cancers, but non-smokers can take action to lower their risk as well. Those who have already been diagnosed with lung cancer should not despair. Some of these measures have been shown to improve survival after lung cancer is already present.

Smoking Cessation

Smoking is responsible for 87% of lung cancers in the United States. Quitting smoking at any time can lower the risk of developing lung cancer, and appears to be beneficial after a diagnosis of lung cancer as well.

Radon Exposure

Exposure to radon in the home is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, and the number one cause in non-smokers. Radon is an invisible radioactive gas that results from the normal decay of radium in the soil. Inexpensive test kits are available at most hardware stores and should be placed in the lowest level of living space in the home. If the results are abnormal, the Environmental Protection Agency can provide assistance in repairing the problem.

Secondhand Smoke

Exposure to second hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers two to three fold.


Workplace exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, and combined with smoking the risk is exponential. Employers should have safety recommendations for those exposed. Homes built prior to 1970 may contain asbestos insulation. Left alone, this insulation is rarely of concern, but a contractor that is certified to work with asbestos should be consulted when remodeling.

Chemical and Occupational Exposures

Several chemicals used in industry and around homes may increase the risk of lung cancer. Labels on home products such as wood stripper, and Material Safety Data Sheets provided by employers, provide information on safe exposure and proper masks to use to limit exposure.

Diet and Exercise

A healthy diet and moderate physical activity both play a role in lung cancer prevention.


National Cancer Institute. Lung Cancer Prevention (PDQ). Health Professional Version. Updated 01/25/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/lung/healthprofessional

Environmental Protection Agency. Radon. Updated 04/02/12. http://www.epa.gov/radon/

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