Lung cancer remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. It is a formidable health concern, with smoking being its most notorious risk factor. However, beyond tobacco use, there are several other significant risk factors that may increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Some of them are exposure to secondhand smoke, occupational hazards like asbestos and air pollution. Read on to learn all the causes of lung cancer.
Health Shots connected to Dr Deepak Koppaka, Consultant – Medical Oncology, CARE Hospitals, HITEC City, Hyderabad, to understand all the possible causes of lung cancer apart from smoking.
Common causes of lung cancer
1. Environmental pollutants
Prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants like radon and asbestos can increase the risk of lung cancer. Dr Koppaka says, “Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can seep into homes from the ground, while asbestos is found in older buildings and can be inhaled when disturbed.” Minimizing exposure to these pollutants, ensuring proper ventilation, and conducting regular testing for radon levels can help mitigate these risks.
2. Genetic predisposition
Dr Koppaka says, “A family history of lung cancer may indicate a genetic predisposition to the disease. Certain gene mutations can increase susceptibility to lung cancer even in non-smokers. If there is a family history of lung cancer, individuals should consider discussing genetic testing with their healthcare providers to understand their risk better.”
3. Occupational hazards
Certain occupations expose individuals to carcinogenic substances, significantly elevating their lung cancer risk. Industries like mining, construction, manufacturing, and asbestos-related work pose substantial threats. Asbestos, a fibrous mineral, is particularly dangerous when its fibers are inhaled, causing lung scarring and cancer. Workers in high-risk industries must follow safety guidelines, wear appropriate protective gear, and undergo regular health screenings to detect any early signs of lung cancer.
4. Air pollution
Environmental factors such as air pollution, have been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Inhalation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and other harmful pollutants from vehicle emissions, industrial activities and biomass burning can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. To reduce exposure to air pollution, individuals can adopt eco-friendly transportation options, support green initiatives, and use air purifiers indoors to improve indoor air quality.
5. Secondhand smoke
While smoking is a primary risk factor, exposure to secondhand smoke can also significantly increase the chances of developing lung cancer. Breathing in the smoke exhaled by smokers or emitted from burning tobacco products introduces harmful chemicals into non-smokers’ lungs. To reduce the risk of secondhand smoke-related lung cancer, individuals should prefer a smoke-free environment and avoid close proximity to smokers.
6. Personal health
Dr Koppaka says, “Pre-existing lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis have been associated with an elevated risk of developing lung cancer.” Managing these conditions effectively through proper medical care and lifestyle adjustments can help reduce the likelihood of lung cancer.
By raising awareness of these lesser-known risk factors and taking proactive steps to mitigate them, individuals can make informed decisions to protect their lung health and potentially reduce the risk of developing lung cancer!