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Lung Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Prevention - Patient Information [NCI] - Lung Cancer Prevention

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Beta carotene supplements in heavy smokers

Taking beta carotene supplements (pills) increases the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers who smoke one or more packs a day. The risk is higher in smokers who have at least one alcoholic drink every day.

It is not clear if the following increases the risk of lung cancer:

HIV infection

Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is linked with a higher risk of lung cancer. People infected with HIV may have more than twice the risk of lung cancer than those who are not infected. Since smoking rates are higher in those infected with HIV than in those not infected, it is hard to know whether the increased risk of lung cancer is from the HIV infection or from being exposed to cigarette smoke.

The following are protective factors for lung cancer:

Not smoking

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke.

Quitting smoking

Smokers can decrease their risk of lung cancer by quitting. In smokers who have been treated for lung cancer, quitting smoking lowers the risk of new lung cancers. Counseling, the use of nicotine replacement products, and antidepressant therapy have helped smokers quit for good.

In a person who has quit smoking, the chance of preventing lung cancer depends on how many years and how much the person smoked and the length of time since quitting. After a person has quit smoking for 10 years, the risk of lung cancer decreases 30% to 50%.

See the following for more information on quitting smoking:

  • Smoking Home Page (Includes help with quitting)
  • Cigarette Smoking: Health Risks and How to Quit

Lower exposure to workplace risk factors

Laws that protect workers from being exposed to cancer-causing substances, such as asbestos, arsenic, nickel, and chromium, may help lower their risk of developing lung cancer. Laws that prevent smoking in the workplace help lower the risk of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

Lower exposure to radon

Lowering radon levels may lower the risk of lung cancer, especially among cigarette smokers. High levels of radon in homes may be reduced by taking steps to prevent radon leakage, such as sealing basements.

It is not clear if the following decrease the risk of lung cancer:

Diet

Some studies show that people who eat high amounts of fruits or vegetables have a lower risk of lung cancer than those who eat low amounts. However, since smokers tend to have less healthy diets than nonsmokers, it is hard to know whether the decreased risk is from having a healthy diet or from not smoking.

Physical activity

Some studies show that people who are physically active have a lower risk of lung cancer than people who are not. However, since smokers tend to have different levels of physical activity than nonsmokers, it is hard to know if physical activity affects the risk of lung cancer.

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WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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