What's Your Risk?

Most people know that the most prominent cause of lung cancer is from smoking. It is important to understand, however, where this risk comes from, and to understand the other risk factors that can lead to lung cancer.


The most prominent risk factor for lung cancer is certainly tobacco smoking. Over 80% of all lung cancers are the result of smoking cigarettes. Certainly, the longer that a person has been smoking, and the more packs that they smoke each day, the greater risk they have of developing lung cancer. One very interesting thing to note is that a person can actually reverse the negative effects of smoking if they quit. If a person stops smoking before a cancer develops, then the damage that they've caused to their lung tissue does start to return to normal. However, ten years after stopping, the ex-smoker's risk of developing cancer is still higher than the risk to a person who never smoked. The ex-smoker has done something very good for himself however, as his risk is about half of that of a person who continued smoking for those ten years.

Second Hand Smoke

Don't let people who smoke tell you that it doesn't have an influence on you as a non-smoker. Those who breathe in second hand smoke a great deal are at greater risk for developing lung cancer than are people who don't inhale this smoke. A nonsmoker married to a smoker has a 30% greater risk of developing lung cancer than does someone who is married to a nonsmoker.


It's certainly important to know what marijuana does to your risk of developing lung cancer, as this is a form of smoke that is also inhaled. Marijuana cigarettes contain more tar than do tobacco cigarettes. Medical reports tend to show that marijuana causes more cancers of the mouth and throat than it does of the lungs. Since marijuana is an illegal drug, it is very hard to collect data about its connection to lung cancer. Similarly, many marijuana smokers are also cigarette smokers, so it is nearly impossible to isolate where the risk is truly from.

Family History

People who already have lung cancer have an increased risk of developing another type of lung cancer. If your brother, sister or parent has had lung cancer, you run a slightly increased risk of developing the cancer yourself. It is difficult to pinpoint how much of this increased risk is due to inherited factors and how much to environmental tobacco in the home.


Researchers are looking into the connection between lung cancer and diet. Certainly, any connection that they find will be much smaller compared to the risk from smoking. It is important, however, to understand the connection between food and cancer. Eating a lot of fat and cholesterol may be linked to an increased risk for lung cancer. Similarly, drinking a lot of alcoholic beverages may as well. It is difficult to isolate drinking as a risk factor, since many people who drink smoke as well. Some foods are actually helpful in preventing cancer. If your diet is high in fruits and vegetables it is likely to decrease your cancer risk. Vitamin C, E or selenium may also help to decrease the risk.

Certainly, the best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking. This is the major risk factor that is tied to lung cancer. It is important, as well, to watch your diet, to stay away from second hand smoke and to pay attention to your family history.