Table of Contents
- Lung cancer facts
- What is lung cancer?
- How common is lung cancer?
- What are the causes and risk factors for lung cancer?
- What causes lung cancer? (Part 2)
- What causes lung cancer? (Part 3)
- What are the types of lung cancer?
- What are lung cancer symptoms and signs?
- What specialists treat lung cancer?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose lung cancer?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose lung cancer? (Continued)
- How do health-care professionals determine lung cancer staging?
- What is the treatment for lung cancer?
- What is the treatment for lung cancer? (Part 2)
- What is the treatment for lung cancer? (Part 3)
- What is the prognosis and life expectancy of lung cancer?
- Is it possible to prevent lung cancer?
What are the causes and risk factors for lung cancer?
The incidence of lung cancer is strongly correlated with cigarette smoking, with about 90% of lung cancers arising as a result of tobacco use. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the time over which smoking has occurred; doctors refer to this risk in terms of pack-years of smoking history (the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked). For example, a person who has smoked two packs of cigarettes per day for 10 years has a 20 pack-year smoking history. While the risk of lung cancer is increased with even a 10-pack-year smoking history, those with 30-pack-year histories or more are considered to have the greatest risk for the development of lung cancer. Among those who smoke two or more packs of cigarettes per day, one in seven will die of lung cancer.
Pipe and cigar smoking also can cause lung cancer, although the risk is not as high as with cigarette smoking. Thus, while someone who smokes one pack of cigarettes per day has a risk for the development of lung cancer that is 25 times higher than a nonsmoker, pipe and cigar smokers have a risk of lung cancer that is about five times that of a nonsmoker.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of which have been shown to be cancer-causing or carcinogenic. The two primary carcinogens in tobacco smoke are chemicals known as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The risk of developing lung cancer decreases each year following smoking cessation as normal cells grow and replace damaged cells in the lung. In former smokers, the risk of developing lung cancer begins to approach that of a nonsmoker about 15 years after cessation of smoking.
Passive smoking or the inhalation of tobacco smoke by nonsmokers who share living or working quarters with smokers, also is an established risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Research has shown that nonsmokers who reside with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with nonsmokers who do not reside with a smoker. The risk appears to increase with the degree of exposure (number of years exposed and number of cigarettes smoked by the household partner). It is estimated that over 7,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year in the U.S. that are attributable to passive smoking.