Lung Cancer Causes, Risk Factors and Prevention

lung cancer risk factors

Smokers lungs can lead to lung cancer. 80 percent of all lung cancers are caused by smoking. What about the other 20? Causes & risk factors of lung cancer.

So, as we know cigarette smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. Another interesting fact is that lung cancer, out of all cancers is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Additionally, not only is smoking bad for the lungs and can cause lung cancer but passive smoking can also have the same exact effects.

There are 2 types of lung cancer. They spread and grow differently.

  • Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC)
  • Small cell lung cancers (SCLC)

Treating lung cancer can be done by chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. There are also some new experimental methods.  (1, 2)

Prognosing lung cancer can be really tough. The disease is mostly found in an advanced stage. The lung cancer five-year survival rate is a little above 50 percent. That is if the lung cancer has not yet spread to other organs. Lung cancer found in late stage, however, has only 4 percent survival rate.

What Exactly Is Lung Cancer?

Much like the rest of the cancers, it develops abnormally in the body’s cells. It is normal for the body’s maintaining system to do checks, and balance the cell growth, thus, divide the cells and create new cells when necessary.

When this system dysfunctions and it doesn’t work properly cells grow out of balance. Meaning, cell begin to spread rapidly and eventually form a mass known as the tumor. (3)

Tumors are divided into two groups. Benign and malignant. When we refer to cancer, we’re talking about the malignant tumor cells. (4)

Benign tumors can usually be removed, unlike malignant tumors who spread aggressively. Malignant tumors can likewise spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. This is known as metastasis. (5) Lung cancer often spreads that way, or it metastasizes after it forms. This makes it very-life threatening condition. Lung cancer can spread to any organ and certain locations. For instance, the liver, brain, adrenal glands, bones make the most common locations for lung cancer metastasis. 

benign and malignant cells

The primary function of the lungs is to exchange gases between the blood and air we breathe. To be precise, the lungs are responsible for removing carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen in the bloodstream.

See Also:
What Happens To Your Body And Lungs When You Smoke
Smokers Lungs – How To Purify and Cleanse You Lungs

What do lungs look like?

what do lungs look like
what do lungs look like

The left part of the lungs separates into two lobes and a part called the lingula. While the right lung has three lobes. The middle lobe of the right lungs equal to the lingula from the left lung. The airways entering the lungs are the bronchi. They come from the trachea which is outside of the lungs. The bronchi then advance into smaller airways called bronchioles. These end with tiny sacs which are known as alveoli. This is where the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen occurs. Additionally, our lungs and chest are covered with pleura — a thin layer of tissue.

Lung cancer can potentially develop in any part of the lungs. However, 90 to 95 percent of the lung cancers come from the epithelial cells. The cells which line across the bronchi and bronchioles. As a result of, the lung cancer can also be called bronchogenic carcinomas or bronchogenic cancer. 

Smokers Lungs vs Non-Smokers Lungs – Know The Difference

What do smokers lungs look like?

Healthy lungs are light pink like seen in the previous picture. Unlike the pink normal color, smokers lungs appear dark and mottled due to inhaled tar. The texture of the two also differs. The smokers lungs are much harder and crisper.

what do lungs look like when you smoke
what do lungs look like when you smoke

We’ve come a long way in the sense of what smoking does to our lungs. However, people still engage in this deadly habit. Although there is a significant decline in heavy smokers compared to decades ago, light smoking has increased. This may seem like a good thing, however, no amount of smoke is good for our overall well-being and general health.

The fact still remains the same. For, it’s a fact. Smoking causes lung cancer, thus kills with a death rate higher than any other cancer type.

Aside from increasing the risk of developing lung cancer, smoking can also provoke cancer in the mouth, throat, larynx, lips, and esophagus. It can furthermore lead to COPD — chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, and emphysema.

See Also: Signs of Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer Risk Factors And Causes

  • Smokers Lungs Cancer

We know, it’s kind of getting boring already. But, Smoking. Like we mentioned before, it is the primary cause of lung cancer with over 80 percent efficiency.

Each and every cigarette increase the chance of developing lung cancer further and further. Parallel to this is the time you have spent smoking cigarettes in the past, or for how long will you keep going. Every person out of seven who smokes two or more packs a day will die from lung cancer.

Interesting fact, cigarettes actually increase the chance of developing lung cancer more than cigars, and pipes. But nevertheless, they can also cause lung cancer and are not recommended. Compared to non-smokers, those who smoke one pack on daily basis increase the chances of developing lung cancer as much as 25 times higher. And pipes and cigars as much as 5 times.

Smokers lungs develop due to the high content of carcinogenic and cancer-causing materials in the cigarettes. Of which, the major trouble-makers are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrosamines. (7)

If you stop smoking, however, have you not yet developed cancer, your smokers lungs begin to heal over time. Which is, of course, good news.

See Also:
How To Get Rid Of Mucus in Lungs
“Killer” Herbs That Fight Viruses & Clear Mucus In Lungs

  • Non-Smokers Lungs Cancer

Not all of the cases of lung cancer are caused by smoke. What happens in rest of the cases? Although it directly links to smoking, people who have smoked in the past and do not currently smoke as still labeled as non-smokers. Thus, gives as the first example. Non-smokers lung cancer can be caused if you have smoked in the past.

But that’s fairly obvious, yet, extremely important to mention. Other causes can be, for example, radon exposure, secondhand smoke, gene changes, air pollution, bad environment, etc. Asbestos, as we’re about to explain, can also cause lung cancer.

  • Radon Gas 

This is a radioactive gas which is a decay product of uranium that releases ionizing radiation. (12) Radon gas, after smoking, comes as top #2 leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon gas can be extremely stealthy. It can travel to our homes through pipes, drains, gaps in the foundation, and other openings in our house or building. the U.S. EPA estimates that as much as 7.5 percent of all homes contain potentially harmful radon gas, which can, of course, cause lung cancer.

  • Gene Changes That Lead To Lung Cancer

Some risk factors are known to induce changes in the DNA of lung cells. To estimate, these changes can lead to abnormal cell growth, therefore, tumor growths, then lung cancer. DNA makes up our genes and controls our cells functions. However, it can also produce certain diseases, including cancer.

Furthermore, oncogenes are genes that help cells grow, stay alive and divide. And tumor suppressor genes are genes that coordinate cells to die at the right time and controls the cells division progress.

Finally, DNA changes can complicate the function of these two. Turning off tumor suppressor genes or turning on oncogenes may cause cancer. (8)

  • Air Pollution

It is common knowledge that both indoor or outdoor air pollution, if not specifically lung cancer, can cause other health problems or complications. So how does air pollution causes lung cancer exactly?

Air pollution is a composite of many substances. The exact contents vary depending on the sources of pollution that are nearby, the time of the year, the weather, and your location. These can be man-made, for instance, burning fuels, smoke, and vehicles. While, there are natural ones, like North African desert dust, for example.  (9)

  • Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is also known as environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoke. This is the storm that smoking creates which is inhaled by a non-smoker (10)

Passive smoke can harm both children and adults. The only way to prevent is to separate smokers from non-smokers or eliminate smoking thoroughly.

Secondhand smoke can be in fact so deadly, that it causes more than 7000 deaths annually in the U.S. to non-smokers.

Toxic Chemicals That Cause Secondhand Smoke Lung Cancer:

  1. Benzene
  2. Arsenic
  3. Chromium
  4. Ethylene Oxide
  5. Nickel
  6. Polonium
  7. Beryllium
  8. Toluene
  9. Cadmium
  • Asbestos Exposure Lung Cancer

When we say asbestos we refer to the six minerals that occur naturally around us as parcels of fibers which are separated into durable, thin threads for use in industrial applications. They are resistant to heat, chemicals, and fire, and they do not conduct electricity.

Many studies have shown that combining asbestos and smoking can be extremely hazardous. Thus, when the two mix together, a person has significantly increased the chance of developing lung cancer, in contrast to being solely exposed to asbestos or smoking. (11)

Asbestos lung cancer is very rare. About 4 percent of deaths are connected to asbestos lung cancer from all lung cancer deaths.

When someone inhales asbestos, the fibers that it contains and they can become trapped in the lungs. Continuous exposure to asbestos can lead to accumulation, therefore, inflammation, scarring, and other critical problems. And, of course, in some cases, it even develops deadly cancer.

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1 Comment

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