Health + Wellness

10 Common Factors Increasing Your Risk for Lung Cancer

lung cancer risk factors

Did you know that several factors can lead to lung cancer? Some of these factors may even be included in your everyday life without your knowledge.

While doctors cannot always explain why one person develops lung cancer and another does not, there are certain risk factors that research has shown can increase a person’s chance of developing lung cancer.

Researchers are continuing to learn more about lung cancer risk factors and how you can reduce them, but have made some discoveries on the most common risk factors. This could help you make the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent your risk of developing lung cancer.

RELATED: 6 Common Ways You’re Damaging Your Lungs

Tobacco smoke

Tobacco smoke causes most cases of lung cancer. It is by far the most important risk factor for lung cancer. Among those newly diagnosed, it is estimated that about 80%-90% are either current or former smokers; the remaining 10%-20% are never smokers.

Harmful substances in smoke can damage lung cells, cause mutations, and make the lungs more vulnerable to other cancer-causing environmental factors, such as asbestos and radon. Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars can cause (or accelerate) lung cancer. If you are at increased risk of developing lung cancer because of smoking, speak with your doctor, who may be able to give you additional information, including referring you to a screening program. 

Secondhand smoke—smoke from other people’s tobacco use—can even cause lung cancer in nonsmokers. The more and the longer a person is exposed to smoke, the greater the risk of lung cancer. 

It is best not to start smoking. However, even those who do smoke can significantly lower their risk of developing lung cancer by quitting. There are many health benefits to quitting, including longer survival and a lower likelihood of the recurrence of lung cancer, even if you don’t quit smoking until after a lung cancer diagnosis. 

There are many tobacco cessation programs to help a smoker quit; two such programs are the US government’s program at and the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking® Online program.

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