Smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars is the most common cause of lung cancer. The amount of smoking increases a person’s risk. A person who smokes two packs a day for 20 years has a greater risk than someone who smoked occasionally for a few years, but all smokers and people exposed to significant second hand smoke have an elevated risk—regardless of the amount of time they smoked or were exposed to smoke. Though risk doesn’t disappear when a person stops smoking, it does decrease as the years pass.
Risk factors for disease include anything that increases a person’s chance for developing a disease. However, having a risk factor doesn’t mean you’ll get the disease, and not having any risk factors does not mean you won’t get a disease. While smoking has been proven biochemically to cause lung cancer, other risk factors are simply more commonly observed in patients who develop cancer without establishing them as causing the disease. Risk factors for lung cancer are:
- Smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars, now or in the past
- Being exposed to secondhand smoke
- Being treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest
- Being exposed to asbestos, radon, chromium, nickel, arsenic, uranium, soot or tar
Reducing Your Risk
Quitting smoking, or never starting to smoke, is the single best way to reduce your risk for lung cancer, other lung and throat diseases, and the many diseases and conditions caused by or related to smoking. If you smoke, we urge you learn more about how to successfully quit.
Learn more about smoking cessation and classes through Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
If you are concerned about lung cancer or other lung diseases, please contact your physician to discuss ways to reduce your risk and whether or not you should be screened for cancer. If you do not have a physician, you may request a first time appointment with a member of our thoracic oncology team by calling 312-695-3800 or call our Physician Referral Service at 1-877-926-4664. You may also request a first time appointment online.