Lung Cancer Isn’t Just a Smoker’s Disease

Lung cancer is commonly misunderstood as a disease that only strikes habitual smokers.

Smoking is in fact the leading cause of lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 70 of which are known to cause cancer. People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely than nonsmokers to get lung cancer or die from the disease.

But nonsmokers, though at a lower risk for lung cancer, aren’t invulnerable to the second most common cancer in men and women (excluding skin cancer). In addition to secondhand smoke, which the CDC says is the cause of about 7,300 lung cancer deaths in the United States every year, family history and environmental hazards are among the leading risk factors for lung cancer in people with no history of tobacco use.

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from rocks and soil, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, and that nearly 3,000 of those deaths are of people who never smoked. What makes radon such a lethal pollutant is that it doesn’t have a discernible presence; it is an invisible, tasteless, odorless gas that pervades dwellings and buildings through cracks in walls, foundations, basement floors, and other openings. Radon can get trapped in structures and build up to dangerous levels over time. One out of every 15 homes in the United States has high radon levels.

Everyone should have their homes tested for radon. Although no safe level of exposure to radon has been established, the EPA recommends taking action to reduce levels that exceed 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). Radon testing is simple and can be done with an inexpensive do-it-yourself kit. There are short-term detection kits that are kept in homes for up to a week to collect samples for lab analysis. Long-term tests are more accurate, but take at least three months to complete. Most test kits include the cost of lab analysis and an addressed envelope for submission, and results are provided in a matter of weeks, says the American Lung Association. You can also have a certified professional test your home for radon. High levels can be mitigated by making air flow changes, sealing cracks in floors and walls, or installing a radon ventilation system.lungcancer

There are other pollutants that can increase the risk for lung cancer, including chemicals you may be breathing in at work on a daily basis. People are most familiar with asbestos, which in addition to lung cancer poses risk for mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer that affects the thin linings of the lung, chest, abdomen and heart) and asbestosis (a chronic disease of the lungs). Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, crystalline silica, diesel exhaust, nickel, and uranium also are associated with lung cancer. If you have concerns about hazardous chemicals in your work environment, you should speak with your employer and your doctor about how best to protect yourself while on the job.

Cancer survivors who underwent radiation therapy to the chest also may have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, though it may take years for the disease to surface, if at all. According to the American Cancer Society, while some cases of leukemia related to previous radiation procedures develop within a few years of exposure (with the risk peaking at 5 to 9 years), solid tumor cancers like those of the lung and breast may not be diagnosed for 10, maybe more than 15 years after exposure. The risk of developing a solid tumor heightens as the dose of radiation increases. Some cancers require larger doses of radiation than others, the American Cancer Society says. A person’s age at the time of being exposed to radiation is also a factor. The American Cancer Society says the risk of getting a second cancer due to exposure to radiation treatment is real, but low. Radiation techniques have steadily improved over the years. Modern treatments target cancers more precisely and more is known about setting radiation doses. It is recommended that patients speak with their doctor about possible long-term effects before making a decision regarding radiation therapy.

In addition to preventive measures including tobacco cessation and reducing exposure to radon and industrial compounds, health experts recommend low-dose CT lung cancer screening for high-risk individuals, particularly current and former smokers between the ages of 55 and 80. LifeBridge Health offers an in-depth lung cancer screening procedure that can potentially detect the disease in its early stages, when it is easier to treat. The procedure, coordinated by a nurse navigator and a multidisciplinary team of experts, includes a low-dose CT chest scan that produces highly detailed images of internal structures and protects portions of the body beyond the scanned region from extreme X-ray exposure. The Thoracic Tumor Clinic at Sinai Hospital, which is a part of LifeBridge Health’s Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute, treats small cell and non-small cell lung cancer as well as mesothelioma.

For more information about our lung cancer screenings, call 866-404-DOCS. If you have questions about the Thoracic Clinic, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, call 410-601-4600.

To schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained physicians and find out why LifeBridge Health is Baltimore's premier health care organization, call 410-601-WELL.

Print this entry

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

*

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

LinkedId

Instagram

Follow Me on Instagram
  • We had so many great entries in our team pictures for our #LBHBestFootForward Contest that we had trouble picking a winner. Thanks to CEO Neil Meltzer & our other LBH leaders, we don't have to - we're giving all 29 teams who entered a pizza party! We will be following up with our teams to arrange delivery. THANK YOU to everyone who participated - you really knocked our socks off! Check out some of the amazing entries. #balitmoremd

    lifebridgehealth: "We had so many great entries in our team pictures for our #LBHBestFootForward Contest that we had trouble picking a winner. Thanks to CEO Neil Meltzer & our other LBH leaders, we don't have to - we're giving all 29 teams who entered a pizza party! We will be following up with our teams to arrange delivery. THANK YOU to everyone who participated - you really knocked our socks off! Check out some of the amazing entries. #balitmoremd"
    12
    0
  • Can you spot #SinaiHospital's Izzy Patoka and Keri Bennett? They joined other partners of Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) program to receive the 2018 Secretary's Award for Public/Philanthropic Partnerships from HUD Secretary Ben Carson. #community #mybmore

    lifebridgehealth: "Can you spot #SinaiHospital's Izzy Patoka and Keri Bennett? They joined other partners of Housing Upgrades to Benefit Seniors (HUBS) program to receive the 2018 Secretary's Award for Public/Philanthropic Partnerships from HUD Secretary Ben Carson. #community #mybmore"
    13
    0
  • If you’re going to be at Back on My Feet Baltimore’s “Sneaks Come Out at Night” relay event this evening at Herring Run Park, visit the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics’ Running Program’s booth. Our experts will be handing out information about RIAO services and answering questions about injury prevention, shoe selection and more! @bomfbaltimore #running #baltimoremd

    lifebridgehealth: "If you’re going to be at Back on My Feet Baltimore’s “Sneaks Come Out at Night” relay event this evening at Herring Run Park, visit the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics’ Running Program’s booth. Our experts will be handing out information about RIAO services and answering questions about injury prevention, shoe selection and more! @bomfbaltimore #running #baltimoremd"
    15
    0
  • LifeBridge Health's #Community Service Corps is at it again, this time helping with Liberty Road clean up near #NorthwestHospital. It's all part of our purpose of "Caring for Our Communities Together." Speaker Pro Tem, Delegate Adrienne Jones sponsored the event and took a picture with the group! #lifebridgehealth #community #baltimoremd

    lifebridgehealth: "LifeBridge Health's #Community Service Corps is at it again, this time helping with Liberty Road clean up near #NorthwestHospital. It's all part of our purpose of "Caring for Our Communities Together." Speaker Pro Tem, Delegate Adrienne Jones sponsored the event and took a picture with the group! #lifebridgehealth #community #baltimoremd"
    20
    1
  • Huge congratulations to this month’s #LifeBridgeHealth Superstars - #SinaiHospital's Audra Thompson, #NorthwestHospital's Dionne Brice, #Levindale’s Jamie Kasoff, and @carroll_hospital’s Cortney Rill! #superstar #congrats

    lifebridgehealth: "Huge congratulations to this month’s #LifeBridgeHealth Superstars - #SinaiHospital's Audra Thompson, #NorthwestHospital's Dionne Brice, #Levindale’s Jamie Kasoff, and @carroll_hospital’s Cortney Rill! #superstar #congrats"
    21
    3
  • Take a look at this. We recently got some close up pictures of a helicopter on the #SinaiHospital landing pad. #helicopter #landing #LifeBridgeHealth

    lifebridgehealth: "Take a look at this. We recently got some close up pictures of a helicopter on the #SinaiHospital landing pad. #helicopter #landing #LifeBridgeHealth"
    20
    0
  • Congratulations to these team members from Environmental Services at #NorthwestHospital. Angela Chapman, Quandra Sanders, Carolyne Nyongesa, and Ann-Marie Williams all received recognition for their high performance in the month of June. #LifeBridgeHealth #Congrats

    lifebridgehealth: "Congratulations to these team members from Environmental Services at #NorthwestHospital. Angela Chapman, Quandra Sanders, Carolyne Nyongesa, and Ann-Marie Williams all received recognition for their high performance in the month of June. #LifeBridgeHealth #Congrats"
    34
    2
  • The pictures are in from the #LifeBridgeHealth Sports Training Fair! Thank you to everyone who came out for this great event. Also, a big “thank you” to Dr. Kevin Crutchfield, Dr. Craig Bennett and Cal Ripken Jr. for the insightful discussion sports medicine, sports safety, Cal’s winning streak, and so much more. #SportsMedicine #CalRipkenJr #SportsMedicine #Sports

    lifebridgehealth: "The pictures are in from the #LifeBridgeHealth Sports Training Fair! Thank you to everyone who came out for this great event.  Also, a big “thank you” to Dr. Kevin Crutchfield, Dr. Craig Bennett and Cal Ripken Jr. for the insightful discussion sports medicine, sports safety, Cal’s winning streak, and so much more. #SportsMedicine #CalRipkenJr #SportsMedicine #Sports"
    23
    0
  • You knocked our socks off! Thanks to the #LifeBridgeHealth employees who sent in #LBHbestfootforward pics for our June contest, socks at Maryland landmarks. Take a look this album of the all places these socks got to go. The July contest is creative team photo, August is socks on vacation. There is also a weekly drawing for a LifeBridge Health gift bag. Keep those entries coming! #Contest #Baltimore #BalitmoreMD

    lifebridgehealth: "You knocked our socks off! Thanks to the #LifeBridgeHealth employees who sent in #LBHbestfootforward pics for our June contest, socks at Maryland landmarks. Take a look this album of the all places these socks got to go. The July contest is creative team photo, August is socks on vacation. There is also a weekly drawing for a LifeBridge Health gift bag. Keep those entries coming! #Contest #Baltimore #BalitmoreMD"
    17
    0
  • Remember: Join us on Facebook TONIGHT at 7 p.m. ET LIVE from the #LifeBridgeHealth Sports Training Fair for our “Start Your Streak” panel discussion featuring Cal Ripken Jr. and Dr. Craig Bennett and Dr.Kevin Crutchfield from the LifeBridge Health Sports Medicine Institute. Watch Cal discuss his famous iron-man streak and how he overcame injuries in his career, and learn about advancements in medical treatment for sports injuries and more! • • • • • #CalRipkenJr #FacebookLive #orioles #baseball #sportsmedicine #calripkenbaseball #calripken

    lifebridgehealth: "Remember: Join us on Facebook TONIGHT at 7 p.m. ET LIVE from the #LifeBridgeHealth Sports Training Fair for our “Start Your Streak” panel discussion featuring Cal Ripken Jr. and Dr. Craig Bennett and Dr.Kevin Crutchfield from the LifeBridge Health Sports Medicine Institute. Watch Cal discuss his famous iron-man streak and how he overcame injuries in his career, and learn about advancements in medical treatment for sports injuries and more! •
•
•
•
•
#CalRipkenJr #FacebookLive #orioles #baseball #sportsmedicine #calripkenbaseball #calripken"
    23
    1