Lung Cancer Prevention

Research has linked several causations to lung cancer, predominately, tobacco smoking. However, another link to lung and related cancers such as mesothelioma, also result from exposure to asbestos. A material once used as insulation for chemical plants and similar industries, asbestos, has also been proven as a human carcinogen. Mesothelioma, like lung cancer, has a long latency period. As a result, treatment options are sometimes limited due to the diagnosis not occurring until the cancer has progressed into the later stages. Often the first symptoms do not present until well after the cancer has developed, a factor belonging to both lung cancer and mesothelioma. Because of this early detection is a key component in prognosis and treatment. Through studying the causations of lung cancer researchers have been able to compile a list of preventative measures.

  • Exposure to Asbestos- Asbestos is a hazardous material once used as insulation for the machinery and plumbing found in chemical plants, shipyards, and other related industries. Asbestos has been linked to certain types of cancer, including mesothelioma.  Mesothelioma has been especially prevalent in former plant employees who experienced prolonged exposure to asbestos prior to government warnings, removal, and encapsulation procedures. Listed as an environmental risk factor, once asbestos has been either inhaled or ingested the tiny fibers become embedded in the lining of the lungs or the abdomen. This usually results in irreversible damage. Mesothelioma is a common form of cancer that results from asbestos exposure, as is lung cancer, and an illness known as asbestosis. Tobacco smokers and others exhibiting lung conditions and illnesses prior to asbestos exposure have a greater risk of developing lung-related cancers.  This is due, not only in part to a compromised respiratory system, but to the synergistic affect associated with smoking and exposure to asbestos.
  • Tobacco- The National Cancer Institute lists tobacco smoking as the most important risk factor for lung cancer. Certain types of lung cancer are almost completely comprised of former and current smokers. Cigarettes, cigars, and pipe smoking all increase lung cancer risk. Inhalation of secondhand smoke results in the same type of exposure to cancer causing agents as smokers.
  • Diet- Alcohol consumption and diet are both lifestyle choices, meaning that consuming alcohol, poor diet, and being overweight are risk factors that can be controlled. The National Cancer Institute notes that studies have linked an increase in lung cancer to consuming large quantities of alcohol. They also suggest adding more fruits and vegetables to a regular diet in order to help prevent cancer. NCI also indicates that exercise is a protective factor, even if that person smokes. Despite this, tobacco smoke, both direct and indirect, remains the largest risk factor associated with lung cancer. A healthy lifestyle is one that incorporates all of these preventative measures.
  • Radon- The breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil causes the radioactive gas radon. As it seeps up through the ground leakage can occur into the air and water supply. Decaying quickly, radon gas gives off radioactive particles. If inhaled, these particles can damage the cells lining the lung. Studies indicate that high levels of radon gas inside homes and other structures, which can enter through cracks in the floors, walls, or foundation, are related to increased cases of lung cancer. Testing is available to determine if a home has elevated radon levels, as the gas is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Lung cancer remains the only cancer that is proven to be associated with radon inhalation.

Lung cancer can take years, even decades to present symptoms. Mesothelioma caused by asbestos is similar, with symptoms exhibiting latency periods of anywhere from 20 to 50 years. A consultation with a physician or specialist can lead to a proper diagnosis, as well as further details concerning specific treatment options and prognosis.