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Lung Cancer

Causes of Lung Cancer

There are many causes of lung cancer. The leading causes are smoking, exposure to asbestos and toxic chemicals, environmental contamination, chronic lung inflammation and scarring and family history.


Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. About 93% of lung cancers can be prevented by stop smoking tobacco. Smoking marijuana cigarettes is also considered a risk factor for lung cancer. Marijuana cigarettes have a higher tar content than tobacco cigarettes.

Exposure to asbestos and toxic chemicals

Exposure to asbestos fibers is considered a risk factor for lung cancer. Studies show that asbestos workers are seven times more likely to die from lung cancer and workers from other industries. Asbestos workers who smoke increase their risk of getting lung cancer. Mining industry workers who are exposed to coal products or radioactive substances such as uranium, and workers exposed to chemicals such as arsenic, vinyl chloride, mustard gas, and other carcinogens also have a high risk of contracting lung cancer.

Environmental contamination

High levels of a radioactive gas (radon) that cannot be seen or smelled pose a risk for lung cancer. This gas is produced by the breakdown of uranium, and does not present any problem outdoors. In the basements of some houses that are built over soil containing natural uranium deposits, however, radon may accumulate to dangerous levels. Having one's house inspected for the presence of radon gas when buying or renting is a good idea. Other forms of environmental pollution (e.g., auto exhaust fumes) may also slightly increase the risk of lung cancer.

Chronic lung inflammation and scarring

Inflammation and scar tissue are sometimes produced in the lung by diseases such as silicosis and berylliosis, which are caused by inhalation of certain minerals; tuberculosis; and certain types of pneumonia. This scarring may increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

Family history

Although the exact cause of lung cancer is not known, people with a family history of lung cancer appear to have a slightly higher risk of contracting the disease.


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