Staff Partner, ACS Marco Island
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, and about 14% of all new cancers are lung cancers. In 2016, the American Cancer Society estimates there were about 224,390 new cases of lung cancer, and about 158,080 deaths. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 70 years old; two out of three people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older, and less than 2% are younger than 45. Male smokers are about 25 times more likely, and female smokers are about 26 times more likely to get lung cancer than men and women who never smoked.
Among those statistics, as many as 20% of people who die from lung cancer in the United States every year are non-smokers and have not used any other forms of tobacco. Although staying away from tobacco is the most important preventable way in lowering your risk of getting lung cancer, there are other causes that can affect your lung health too.
Radon Gas exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Although radon occurs naturally outdoors in small amounts, it can become harmful when concentrated in homes built on soil with natural uranium deposits. You cannot see or smell radon gas, so the only way to know whether it’s a problem in your home is to test for it. The EPA has helpful insight on their website, www.epa.gov/radon/citizens-guide-radon-guide-protecting-yourself-and-your-family-radon, about how to test your home inexpensively and how to treat it if the levels are too high.
Secondhand smoke may be a more known avoidant for those non-smokers. Areas in particular to be aware of are being present in a vehicle while someone is smoking, or in their home. Over recent years, laws banning smoking in public places and indoors have helped to reduce this danger. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, has been highly involved with tobacco laws. ACS CAN is continuously working on new ways to better the lives of others through working with the government to make cancer prevention a priority. For more information on ACS CAN and their work, please visit www.acscan.org.
Cancer causing agents at work such as carcinogens like asbestos and diesel exhaust can be dangerous with continuous exposure. Luckily, within recent years, the government and industries have taken action to decrease these potential cancer risks; yet nonetheless, workers in these environments should still take precaution and be aware of their exposure to harmful carcinogens.
Air pollution outdoors has been classified, in 2013, as a cancer-causing agent (carcinogen) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Both indoor and outdoor air pollution can affect someone’s potential risk of lung cancer. In the United States, citizens are more protected from outdoor pollution due to stricter policies to lower the levels of exposure; however, if you will be traveling abroad, this is something to be particularly aware of.
Gene mutations can cause cells to become cancerous. Researchers have been increasingly learning information about what causes genes to mutate. According to “Clinical Cancer Research,” a particular kind of gene mutation is more common in non-smokers than smokers. By discovering this, researchers have been able to develop targeted therapies, and drugs that specifically target these mutations.
By limiting your exposure to these risk factors, and maintaining a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, evidence suggests this may help protect against lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. The most important step to take is eliminating your exposure to radon in your home, secondhand smoke, and any carcinogens at work.
The information in this article is courtesy of www.cancer.org. For more information on this topic please go to the American Cancer Society website, or by contact our 24/7 Patient Services team at 1-800-227-2345.
This is an ongoing series of columns dedicated to informing the Marco Island community about the American Cancer Society, the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health concern by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. The Marco Island American Cancer Society office is located at 583 Tallwood St., Suite 101 and is open daily from 9 AM-5 PM. For more information about volunteering or any of the events mentioned in this column please contact Sue Olszak or Lisa Honig at 239-642-8800 ext. 3890.