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Is Emphysema a Risk Factor for Lung Cancer?

Emphysema is a lung disease where the lung’s air sacs become damaged and enlarged, most often leading to shortness of breath. The condition is caused by long-term exposure to airborne irritants, such as tobacco and marijuana smoke, chemical fumes and air pollution. One question many individuals have about this condition is whether it can make you more susceptible to developing lung cancer. While having emphysema in and of itself is not a risk factor for lung cancer, these two conditions are both caused by long-term exposure to tobacco smoke and other carcinogens. Therefore, those who have developed emphysema as a result of tobacco use or exposure to other carcinogens may already be at a higher risk for developing lung cancer.

Lung cancer risk factors

While emphysema is not a risk factor for lung cancer, there are a number of other things that can make a person more likely to develop this malignancy. By far, the biggest risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, with up to 90 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses stemming from tobacco use. Additionally, inhaling secondhand smoke – particularly on a regular basis such as when you live or work with a smoker – can also increase your chances of developing this malignancy. Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • A personal or family history of lung cancer
  • Receiving radiation therapy to the chest
  • Exposure to air pollution, radon or other environmental hazards
  • Exposure to diesel exhaust, asbestos, coal products or other carcinogens

If you are concerned about your lung cancer risk factors, request a consultation at Moffitt Cancer Center by calling 1-888-663-3488 or filling out a new patient registration form online. We offer comprehensive screening, diagnostic and treatment services for patients with lung cancer and would be glad to meet with you with or without a referral.