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

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Environmental risk factors

  • Radon exposure: Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. It seeps up through the ground, and leaks into the air or water supply. Radon can enter homes through cracks in floors, walls, or the foundation, and levels of radon can build up in the home.

    Studies show that high levels of radon gas inside homes and other buildings increase the number of new cases of lung cancer and the number of deaths caused by lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer is higher in smokers exposed to radon than in nonsmokers exposed to radon. In people who have never smoked, about 30% of deaths caused by lung cancer have been linked to being exposed to radon.

  • Air pollution: Some studies have shown a link between air pollution and an increased risk of lung cancer.
  • Workplace exposure : Studies have shown a link between being exposed to the following substances and an increased risk of lung cancer:
    • Asbestos.
    • Arsenic.
    • Chromium.
    • Nickel.
    • Radon gas.
    • Tar and soot.

    These substances can cause lung cancer in people who are exposed to them in the workplace and have never smoked. The risk of lung cancer is higher in people who are exposed and also smoke.

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.

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