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Published on November 19, 2013

Preventing and Screening for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is currently the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that in 2010, more than 201,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer, and at least 158,000 people died from the disease. The good news, however, is that after increasing for decades, lung cancer rates are finally decreasing nationally, paralleling national decreases in cigarette smoking.

It should not come as a surprise to learn that cigarette smoking is the cause of 90 percent of all lung cancer cases. Tobacco smoke is a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Many of these chemicals are known poisons, and at least 70 of them are known to cause cancer in people or animals. Consequently, people who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to die from lung cancer compared to people who do not smoke. Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking socially can increase the risk of lung cancer.

Though smoking perpetuates the greatest risk of developing lung cancer, there are several other risk factors associated with the disease. “Secondhand smoking” occurs when a non-smoker breathes in the fumes of other people's cigarettes.   Two out of five non-smoking adults and half of the children in the United States are exposed to second-hand smoke. Every year in the United States, about 3,000 people who never smoked die from lung cancer from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Besides smoking, lung cancer can be caused by using other types of tobacco, such as pipes or cigars, or by breathing in second-hand smoke from someone using these substances. In other cases, it can be caused by exposure to harmful substances such as asbestos or radon. 

Lung cancer risk can be greatly decreased by observing simple habits. Do not begin smoking, or, for those who smoke, take steps to quit today. Quitting smoking at any age can lower the risk of developing lung cancer.

 Those interested in participating in a  free, 10-minute telephone screening including questions about age, smoking history, cancer history, lung disease history, and family history of lung cancer, exposure to radon, and occupational exposure to arsenic, chromium, asbestos, nickel, cadmium, beryllium, silica and diesel fumes, may call MidMichigan Gratiot Cancer Center, at (989) 463-9307. 

Those interested in support to quit smoking may call -1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or contact a physician or health care provider to discuss options.