Risk factors for lung cancer
lung cancer : Risk factors for lung cancer
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Risk factors for lung cancer

Avoiding these factors can reduce the risk of lung cancer. However, most people who have a risk factor will not be affected by this cancer. 

Main risk factor

Smoking cigarettes. By far, this is the most important risk factor. Smokers are 10 to 25 times more likely to get lung cancer than non-Smoking Area2. For a smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, the risk is 50 times . The risk depends on the age at which they started smoking, the number of years and the amount of cigarettes smoked per day.

Although lung cancer takes several years to manifest, physiological changes in lung tissue are visible long before. Women who smoke may be slightly higher risk of lung cancer than men, for reasons that ignore40.


About other types of cigarettes. “Exotic” cigarettes (kretek, bidi, etc.), often flavored, are not safer than the cigarette3. Some have no filter, others contain less tobacco, but more nicotine than regular cigarettes. Note that chewing tobacco is a major cause of cancer of the mouth and gorge2.

Light cigarettes safer? According to experts at the Mayo Clinic in the US, believe that we reduced the cancer risk by choosing low tar cigarettes or nicotine is often a erreur4. This slight protective effect would be offset by the fact that the majority of people who smoke these cigarettes inhale more deeply, without realizing it, to obtain the same amount of nicotine.


Other risk factors

Smoke a pipe or cigar. Their smoke would also be  to harmful lungs than the cigarette. However, pipe smokers and cigar generally smoke less frequently than cigarette smokers, reducing the risk of cancer.

Being frequently exposed to secondhand smoke. Among non-smokers, it is the main risk factor for cancer poumon2. Living with a smoker increases the risk by a factor of 1.25 to 2.553. Children whose parents smoke are more risk of lung cancer in adulthood.

Be exposed to carcinogens as part of a job. Carcinogens may cause genetic mutations causing cancer. This is the case of workers exposed to asbestos (asbestos miners in a mine construction workers), radon (in uranium mines), chromium (welders) or ovens vapors gas. Persons in frequent contact with chemicals or minerals likely to be inhaled (arsenic, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromate, coal products, mustard gas, gasoline, diesel exhaust, talc dust, etc.) and which do not comply with security measures also have an increased risk.

Being exposed to carcinogens at home. Exposure to high concentrations of radon in the home increases the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers. Radon is a radioactive gas naturally present in soil and rock, resulting from the degradation of uranium. It is colorless and odorless. The risk occurs in homes built on soil containing uranium. Radon seeps through the basement through dirt floors, concrete walls (and even more if cracked), drains and sump pumps.

More radon found in certain geographic areas. Radon is also found in high concentrations in contaminated soils by some industrial waste (by-products of uranium, phosphate mines). In the United States, a house on 15 expose its people to unsafe levels of radon6 and 12% of lung cancer cases are attributable to radon. According to Health Canada, “it is rare that the radon concentration is high in homes in Canada.” 30 Some Canadian cities are more affected than others.

It is possible to measure the radon content of the air in his house. Canadians can consult a guide prepared for this purpose (see the Points of Interest section). In France, a mapping was conducted which indicates the average radon concentrations in the air of habitations53.

Exposure to asbestos, a fibrous mineral used as insulation in homes and buildings, also increases the risk of lung cancer. In houses, these insulators are not dangerous as long as they are not broken or manipulated in air, which may be the case during renovations.

Wood stoves, if they are not waterproof, are sources of fine particles in the air of homes, particularly dust and ashes. Wood smoke contains over a hundred of toxic substances, some of which are cancerogenes50.

Note. In its natural form, talc may contain asbestos. However, Canadian law requires, since 1973, the talc-containing consumer products (body powders, face and baby) are free of asbestos.

Being frequently exposed to air pollution. The air pollution is responsible for 5% of deaths related to cancer of the trachea, bronchus and poumons7. The particles from burning coal, oil, natural gas and waste incineration are responsables8,9. This problem is especially worrying in the poorest countries and densely populated, especially in Asia, but concerned, to certain degrees, all major cities.

Consuming small amounts of fruits and vegetables. Many studies (cohort or case-control) on dietary habits show a slightly lower risk among consumers of fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene (sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach and other vegetables dark green, winter squash, etc.) 10.

According to epidemiological studies, beta-carotene consumed as supplements is against-indicated in fumeurs12-15. For more information, see Complementary Approaches section.


Potential risk factors

Smoking marijuana. For now, the data tend to show that marijuana does not increase the risk of cancer poumon16,17. Marijuana smoke or cannabis, although qu’exempte nicotine, yet contains many carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. Researchers believe that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in cannabis smoke exert a protective effect, but in others a research délétère18 effect was observed. Marijuana smoke is often inhaled deeply and kept longer in the lungs. Some evidence suggests that marijuana may cause cancer of the mouth or gorge41.

Shisha (Eastern pipe, water pipe, hookah). The data are insufficient at this time to determine the impact of this practice on the risk of cancer poumon19. The amount of smoke in hookah tobacco is much lower than that found in cigarettes.

In this regard, the position of the Canadian Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society is: “No amount of smoking is safe.” 20 Hookah smoking is one of the traditions in North Africa and the Middle East. The smoker draws through a long pipe, flavored tobacco smoke. While filtered water, the smoke contains certain amounts of nicotine, carbon monoxide and other noxious substances.

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