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Pancoast Tumor Causes

While researchers aren’t completely sure what causes a Pancoast tumor to develop, they do know that certain factors, such as tobacco use, secondary smoke exposure, and exposure to occupational hazards such as asbestos, diesel exhaust, nickel, and gold, can place someone at a higher risk for this type of cancer. 

These factors introduce carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, into the body. Carcinogens can cause unique biological responses within the body, including changes to the body’s cell production process in the lungs, which is what ultimately causes the Pancoast tumor:

  • The carcinogens can trigger slight genetic changes in individual tissue cells
  • These genetic changes can cause the cells to mutate and divide much quicker than they normally would
  • A small cluster of abnormal cells may start to form, after which it can eventually develop into a Pancoast tumor

When considering the carcinogens mentioned above, it’s important to remember that they are not direct causes of a Pancoast tumor. Many people will come into contact with carcinogens at some point throughout their life, and never become ill. As is the case with most other cancers, a person’s risk of developing a Pancoast tumor often increases with the dose and frequency of their exposure to carcinogens. However, some people will develop cancer without ever having been exposed to any of the main carcinogens. In these cases, the tumors are said to develop spontaneously.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we don’t just treat Pancoast tumors; we’re constantly conducting research studies to better understand them. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we’re always looking for ways to learn more about Pancoast tumor causes and risk factors so that we can bring our patients the most advanced care possible.  To learn more about our Pancoast tumor treatment programs or our current list of clinical trials, call 1-888-663-3488 (or request an appointment.) No referral is required to meet with our lung cancer treatment team.