Risk of Lung Cancer

A person’s risk of lung cancer significantly increases with his or her use of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars and pipes. In fact, smoking is determined to be a casual factor in more than 85 percent of all lung cancer cases. Research studies have also confirmed that the longer an individual smokes and the more he or she smokes each day, the greater his or her risk will be.

For nonsmokers, breathing in the tobacco smoke created by others is equally dangerous. Just like smoking itself, exposure to secondhand smoke not only increases the risk of lung cancer, but also that of heart attacks and stroke.

Other environmental substances or exposures that can increase the risk of lung cancer include:

  • Asbestos – This naturally fireproof and insulating mineral was routinely used in building construction materials and manufacturing processes before it was largely banned in the 1970s. When inhaled, asbestos fibers can irritate the lungs, and this irritation may eventually cause lung disease.
  • Radon – This odorless gas is released by some uranium-containing rocks and soil. Some homes that are built on these surfaces may contain high levels of radon, especially on their lower floors.
  • Industrial substances – Some potentially dangerous and cancer-causing industrial byproducts include arsenic, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, gasoline and diesel exhaust.
  • Radiation therapy – The delivery of X-rays to the chest area is known to increase a person’s risk of lung cancer.
  • Tuberculosis – This condition can cause lung tissue scarring, which is a lung cancer risk factor.
  • Family history – Inherited gene mutations can play a role in the development of lung cancer.

While it’s important for everyone to be aware of these risk factors, they do not tell the whole story. In the Thoracic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, we recognize that each person is different, and our multispecialty team of experts takes a highly individualized approach to lung cancer risk assessment. As a Lung Cancer Alliance-designated Screening Center of Excellence, we have one of the top lung cancer screening programs in the nation.

If you’d like to discuss your personal lung cancer risk profile with the experts at Moffitt Cancer Center, you do not need a referral. To request an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online.