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8 Proven Ways To Reduce Your Risk For Lung Cancer

8 Proven Ways To Reduce Your Risk For Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is cancer that starts in your lungs. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., as it is responsible for an estimated one in five cancer-related deaths.

Knowing how to reduce your risk for lung cancer may help you avoid this disease, even if it runs in your family. Here are eight proven ways to avoid lung cancer and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center if you need to request an appointment with a doctor who specializes in lung health.

How Common Is Lung Cancer?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the U.S. It adds that in 2023, there will be an estimated 238,340 new cases of lung cancer and an estimated 127,070 deaths from lung cancer. It is slightly more common in women than in men, though a higher percentage of men end up dying from this cancer.

The majority of people who are diagnosed with lung cancer are aged 65 years or older, and the average age of people who are diagnosed is 70 years.

An estimated one in 16 men and one in 17 women will develop lung cancer in their lifetime, reports the ACS. The risk for lung cancer is significantly higher in those who smoke than in those who do not smoke.

What Causes Lung Cancer?

Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. The ACS says an estimated 80% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking.

In people who don’t smoke, lung cancer can be caused by exposure to secondhand smoke and substances, including radon, air pollution, asbestos, and diesel exhaust. It may also be caused by inherited or acquired gene changes, though these causes are far less common.

8 Proven Ways To Lower Your Risk

There are many lifestyle and behavioral changes you can make to reduce your risk for lung cancer. Your doctor can also work closely with you to reduce your risk, especially if you meet the risk factors for this disease.

1. Don’t Smoke

Nicotine is a habit-forming substance due to the way it interacts with the brain to trigger cravings, reports the FDA. It adds that using any form of tobacco, can lead to nicotine addiction, including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes.

Not smoking is the most effective way to reduce your risk for lung cancer. If you do not currently smoke, don’t start. Resist experimenting with cigarettes and smoking, even if you promise yourself you’ll only do it one time.

2. Stop Smoking

Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of lung cancer even if you have been smoking for many years. The FDA says that within 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will return to normal to allow a higher amount of oxygen to reach your organs. It adds that your risk for lung cancer decreases by 50% within 10 years after you quit.

Your lungs will start healing the moment you quit smoking. Quitting smoking can be challenging. However, many effective treatments can help you stop.

Ask your doctor about smoking cessation treatments that can help. You may need to try a few treatments before you find one that works best for you. Medications, nicotine replacement, support groups, and behavioral therapy are among the top smoking cessation treatments available.

3. Avoid Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is shown to be just as harmful as smoking when it comes to your risk for lung cancer. According to the CDC, the harmful respiratory effects of secondhand smoke begin within 60 minutes of exposure and can last for up to three hours. In addition to causing lung cancer, exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease, stroke, and reproductive problems.

If you live with someone who smokes, encourage them to smoke outdoors or talk to them about the importance of quitting. Also, avoid going to places like bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys that allow smoking indoors.

4. Check Your Home For Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can easily go undetected due to the way it cannot be smelled or seen. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and the number one cause of lung cancer among people who don’t smoke.

Radon is found in many homes, as it can move from soil into the air. If there are holes or cracks in the foundation of your home, radon can infiltrate your home and get trapped inside, where it builds up to dangerous, cancer-causing levels. The Environmental Protection Agency states that an estimated one in 15 homes has elevated radon levels.

You can test your home for radon using a special kit that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store. Or, you can hire a professional radon tester who can check for radon in your home and discuss ways to lower it if levels are high. For instance, you can lower radon in your home by installing new vent pipes and fans that can push radon back outside.

5. Reduce Your Exposure To Toxic Chemicals

Several toxic chemicals have been linked to lung cancer. Reducing your exposure to these toxins can help you avoid lung cancer.

Toxins linked to lung cancer include:

  • Arsenic.
  • Asbestos.
  • Cadmium.
  • Chromium.
  • Compounds.
  • Coal gasification.
  • Nickel refining.
  • Radon.
  • Soot.
  • Tars.
  • Oils.
  • Silica.

If you work around these chemicals, avoiding them completely may not be possible. However, your employer may require you to wear protective equipment and clothing—such as respirators—to reduce your exposure to toxicity. Talk to your employer to learn more about how to stay safe when working with these chemicals.

6. Eat Healthy Foods

Many of the behaviors that can cause lung cancer—such as smoking and working around toxic chemicals—can contribute to inflammation. Inflammation can damage your lung tissue and also lead to changes in cells and DNA that increase the risk of lung cancer. Therefore, eating healthy, anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce your risk. This proven method to reduce your lung cancer risk was explored in a 2016 issue of Nutrients.

According to the researchers who led the study, the best foods for fighting lung cancer are fruits, vegetables, fish, white meats, and soy-based foods. It adds that including all these foods in your diet is more effective for preventing lung cancer than eating just one or two of these foods. Blueberries, broccoli, salmon, turkey, and tofu are some of the many foods that may help reduce inflammation and your risk for lung cancer.

7. Exercise Regularly

Exercise offers a large number of benefits for your overall health, including a reduced risk for all cancers. It can naturally reduce inflammation and speed up the healing of your lungs—especially if you recently stopped smoking.

Other ways exercise can prevent lung cancer, according to a 2011 study in Recent Results in Cancer Research, include:

  • Improved lung function.
  • Reduced concentrations of toxins in the lungs.
  • Improved immunity.
  • Enhanced capacity to repair DNA.
  • Changes in growth factor levels.

The researchers who led the study added that regular exercise can reduce lung cancer risk by 20% to 30% for women and by 20% to 50% for men.

The National Institutes of Health says exercising can help you fight nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can also increase your energy, improve your mood, and help you cope with stress.

Any type of exercise can help prevent lung cancer. If you recently quit smoking, try to do lots of aerobic exercises that can increase your lung capacity and promote good circulation. Walking, running, biking, and swimming are examples of aerobic activities that can accelerate lung healing.

8. Limit Radiation Treatment

Long-term exposure to radiation, or short-term exposure to high-energy radiation, is found to increase the risk for lung cancer. Radiation can change your DNA and lead to the development of abnormal cells that cause cancer.

Limit your exposure to radiation aimed at the chest. X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and radiation therapy for other types of cancer all have the potential to cause lung cancer. If you need radiation therapy, mention your concerns to your doctor and ask about alternative treatments that pose no lung cancer risk.

When To See a Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you may have lung cancer. This disease doesn’t always cause symptoms in its early stages, which is why it’s important to make lifestyle changes now that can reduce your risk.

Lung cancer usually causes symptoms when it is at an advanced stage. Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A new cough that doesn't go away.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Headache.
  • Bone pain.

You should also see your doctor if you need help with quitting smoking, given how smoking is the top cause of lung cancer. Your doctor can talk to you in more detail about all your available treatment options.

Cardiopulmonary Care At Lompoc Valley Medical Center

Lompoc Valley Medical Center offers a wide range of healthcare services, including cardiopulmonary care services for patients who need treatment for conditions of the lungs and heart. If you meet the risk factors for lung cancer, our team of experienced medical doctors can work with you to reduce your risk. Contact us today at (805) 737-3300 to request an appointment and learn more about our many healthcare services.