Causes of Lung Cancer
Environmental Tobacco Smoke
The chance of developing lung cancer is increased by exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) -- the smoke in the air when someone else smokes. Exposure to ETS, or secondhand smoke, is called involuntary or passive smoking.
Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil and rocks. It can cause damage to the lungs that may cause lung cancer. People who work in mines may be exposed to radon, and, in some parts of the country, radon is found in houses. Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer even more for those already at risk because of exposure to radon.
A kit available at most hardware stores allows homeowners to measure radon levels in their homes. The home radon test is relatively easy to use and inexpensive. Once a radon problem is corrected, the hazard is gone for good.
Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as fibers and are used in certain industries. Asbestos fibers tend to break easily into particles that can float in the air and stick to clothes. When the particles are inhaled, they can lodge in the lungs, damaging cells and increasing the risk for lung cancer.
Studies have shown that workers who have been exposed to large amounts of asbestos have a risk of developing lung cancer that is three to four times greater than that for workers who have not been exposed to asbestos. This exposure has been observed in such industries as:
- Asbestos mining and manufacturing
- Insulation work
- Brake repair.
The risk of lung cancer is even higher among asbestos workers who also smoke. Asbestos workers should use the protective equipment provided by their employers and follow recommended work practices and safety procedures.