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Risk Factors and Causes


Dr. Flemings
The major risk factor for both non-small cell and small cell lung cancers is smoking, but there are other risk factors as well. Dr. Mansfield, can you tell us about the risk factors for lung cancer?

Dr. Mansfield
Sure thing, Dr. Flemings. The risk of lung cancer is increased for anyone who has ever smoked cigarettes, pipes, or cigars. This risk is even greater for those who started smoking early in life, those who smoke often, and those who have smoked for many years.

Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Being exposed to radiation from radiation therapy to the breast or chest, radon in the home or workplace, imaging tests, or atomic bomb radiation
  • Being exposed to asbestos, chromium, nickel, beryllium, arsenic, soot, or tar in the workplace
  • Living where there is air pollution
  • Having a family history of lung cancer
  • Being infected with HIV, and
  • Taking beta carotene supplements

When smoking is combined with other risk factors, the risk of lung cancer is increased even more.