By Sonya Younger, MBA, DHEC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
In the United States, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, even though an extensive list of modifiable risk factors has long been identified. Approximately 4,040 South Carolinians will be diagnosed with lung cancer and an estimated 2,970 will die from the disease in 2015. While smoking is, by far, the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, it is a disease that can affect anyone, so it is important for everyone to know the risks and look out for your health.
Causes of Lung Cancer
Tobacco use is the number one cause of lung cancer in the United States, causing 90 percent of all lung cancer, and it is completely preventable. No matter what your age or how long you have smoked, quitting now will make a difference in your health that you can feel. If you or someone you know would like to quit smoking, call the S.C. Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). For services in Spanish, call 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569).
Although lung cancer’s predominant cause is tobacco smoking, there are other causes as well. Radon, for example, is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the U.S. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment and can seep into homes and buildings. To avoid exposure, it is a great idea to test your home for radon. Click here to order a free radon testing kit from DHEC.
The quality of the air you breathe can make a difference in your risk of lung cancer, so it is important to be mindful about the environment where you live and work and avoid exposure to carcinogen pollutants. Substances such as arsenic, asbestos, chromates, nickel, and other air-borne agents have been known to contribute to lung cancer. Outdoor air pollution, including smog and CO2 emissions from vehicles, is also a factor that can affect your lung health and contribute to lung cancer risk.
Guidelines for Screening
According to the American Cancer Society, patients who meet all of the following criteria may be candidates for lung cancer screening:
- 55 to 74 years old
- In fairly good health
- Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history
- Are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
Patients should talk with their doctors about the benefits, limitations, and potential harms of lung cancer screening.
For more information about lung cancer, please visit the American Cancer Society’s website.