Lung cancer is the major cause for most cancer deaths in both men and women around the world. The American Cancer Society says that approximately 100,000 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S. will be diagnosed each year. Lung cancer is mostly an illness for elderly people, with about 70% of people diagnosed with the condition more than 65 years of age. It is estimated that less than 3% of new cases are found in people under the age of 45. Because of higher rates of cigarette smoking and other environmental and personal lifestyle factors, there are increasing cases of lung cancer around the world.
While there is no single cause for lung cancer, a lot of factors have been attributed to contribute to the development of lung cancer in the body, and these are:
- Smoking. Tobacco smoke has over 4,000 chemical compounds, and most of these chemicals have been found to be carcinogenic or cancer-causing.
When these chemicals enter the body, changes in the lung tissue begin almost immediately. Initially, the body may be able to fight off the damage and repair it. But with continuous exposure, the normal lung cells are increasingly damaged. After some time, these damaged cells behave abnormally and cancer cells may develop. Lungs are composed of blood vessels and lymph vessels, making lung cancer cells travel easily to other parts of the body. Because of this, lung cancer may affect other parts of the body before the body shows any signs or symptoms.
- Passive smoking. Passive smoking, or the intake of tobacco smoke from other smokers, has also been proven to contribute to lung cancer. Statistics show that nonsmokers who are in close contact with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for acquiring lung cancer when compared with other nonsmokers who are not in close contact with second-hand smoke. 3,000 lung cancer deaths occurring each year in the U.S. are attributable to passive smoking.
- Lung diseases. A person already having certain lung diseases, notably chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), suffer an increased risk of acquiring lung cancer.
- A history of lung cancer. Patients who have survived non-small cell lung cancers have an additional risk of 1% - 2% per year for acquiring a second and full-blown lung cancer.
- Air pollution. Exposure to air pollution from power plants, factories, and vehicles is harmful to the lungs and can increase chances of developing lung cancer. Up to 1% of deaths due to lung cancer are because of lung cancer acquired by prolonged exposure to polluted air.
While there are environmental factors, they only make up a small percentage as the cause for lung cancer. According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer is considered to be a type of cancer you can actually prevent. Unlike other cancers that just develop in your body and you cannot do anything to prevent it, lung cancer is preventable only when you stop smoking - better yet, do not start smoking and you will not have lung cancer, simply put.