Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Four Risk Factors for Lung Cancer BESIDES Smoking?

Even if you don’t smoke, you can be at significant risk for developing lung cancer if one or more of the following risk factors are present:
  • Exposure to radon

  • Exposure to asbestos

  • Air pollution

  • Exposure to other chemicals

Radon and Lung Cancer -- How to Evaluate Your Risk

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking in America, and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. According to EPA statistics, it claims about 20,000 lives annually.

Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:

  • The level of radon in your home

  • The amount of time you spend in your home

  • Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked

Logically, smokers are far worse off when it comes to radon raising their lung cancer risk as their lungs are already compromised. Children and developing fetuses are also especially vulnerable to radiation, as it can cause other forms of cancer as well.

According to the EPA, if 1,000 smokers were exposed to the “action” radon level of 4 pCi/L over a lifetime, about 62 of them would get lung cancer from the radiation, compared to only about 7 out of 1,000 non-smokers.

Asbestos and Lung Cancer

Exposure to asbestos is also a risk factor for contracting lung cancer. Asbestos is a mineral that occurs as a long thin fiber, environmentally. Despite asbestos being banned in the1980s due to its health dangers, it was still used in many industrial and insulation materials as a fire retardant,[x] and much of that construction is still around.

Many people came in contact with asbestos unknowingly, sometimes while working in their attic installing insulation, or perhaps by moving the insulation around during repairs or renovations. Others become exposed to asbestos as factory workers, or possibly as part of a construction crew demolishing an old building or ship.

There are a number of jobs that may expose people to asbestos, directly or indirectly. These include:

  • Factory work
  • Demolition
  • Insulation
  • Shipbuilding
  • Carpentry
  • Installation of vehicle brake linings

Air Pollution and Lung Cancer

While air pollution is a less frequent cause of lung cancer than the two previous causes I’ve discussed, there are instances where air pollution can lead to serious lung afflictions such as lung cancer.

One such study was conducted in 2003, when researchers from Brigham Young University and New York University studied 500,000 adults who had enrolled in 1982 in an American Cancer Society survey on cancer prevention.

The researchers examined the adults’ health records for almost two decades, and analyzed data on annual air pollution averages in the cities in which the participants lived. They took into account other risk factors for heart and lung disease such as cigarettes, diet, weight, and occupation.

Lung cancer death rates were compared with average pollution levels, as measured in micrograms per cubic meter of air.

Their conclusions?

Researchers found that the number of lung cancer deaths increased 8 percent for every increase of 10 micrograms of pollution.

Researchers were able to determine that air pollution contributed to a “small but significant increase” in lung cancer risks.

Air pollution, particularly when coupled with another risk factor, smoking, is a significant cause of lung cancer.

One solution is to seriously consider moving, if you live in a large, metropolitan city. Large cities invariably carry greater risks of air pollution simply due to more people per square mile, more companies creating air pollution, and certainly more pollution from automobiles, buses, and trains, which is highly carcinogenic.

Exposure to Environmental Chemicals and Lung Cancer

Every day, more and more chemicals are being added to your total body burden. Is it any wonder that there has been such an increase in lung problems and lung disease?

One study highlighting the effects of environmental pollution showed that dry-cleaning workers had a 25 percent higher rate of cancer deaths when compared with the general population.

Those workers had an increased risk of tongue, lung, and cervical cancers, as well as pneumonia, when exposed only to perchloroethylene.[xiii]

Another study cited factory workers’ exposure to berillium, a metal commonly used in the manufacture of sporting goods, dental equipment, and airplane parts, as being responsible for causing lung disease and lung cancer. As many as 30 percent of workers who became sensitized to the metal, died from chronic berillium disease, or its complications.

In addition, a recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine confirmed the connection between beryllium exposure and lung cancer.[xiv]

So, just how high is your exposure to toxic compounds in the air you breathe? The number we breathe in daily cannot really been numbered, but I believe being an informed and vigilant consumer can help you keep your toxic load as low as possible, even if it may be impossible to cut your exposure to zero.

Some of the toxic overload is within your control. Also, if you are able to, distance yourself from the source of some of the common risk factors I’ve mentioned.

I know it is not easy to change jobs, particularly in this economy, but if your job is contributing to your risk factors for lung cancer or for any disease, you should take serious steps to find a safer occupation.

And as I mentioned before, if you feel the community where you live is causing a toxic overload on your system, either from the air you breathe or from any other factor, look into moving to a less polluted location.

1 comment:

Cancer information said...

Lung cancer is quiet a common disease. It ranks ranks second in the listing for the most widespread form of cancer in US. Smokers and non-smokers both can develop lung cancer. Common symptoms are: persistent cough, chest pain, puffiness in face, neck, weight reduction, exhaustion.