Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Many people recognize that smoking tobacco can lead to lung cancer. However, lung cancer can develop in anyone, regardless of their smoking status or age. It’s good to be aware of the risk factors, even if you’ve never smoked and believe you are unlikely to develop lung cancer.

Common risk factors

The common risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Smoking tobacco in any form
  • Having a history of smoking, even if you’ve quit
  • Living or having frequent contact with someone who smokes
  • Working in an environment where people smoke
  • Having other relatives with lung cancer
  • Exposure to radon, chromium, nickel, soot, tar or arsenic
  • Exposure to heavy air pollution
  • Infection with HIV
  • Undergoing radiation therapy to the chest or breast

Risk calculators and resources

There are a number of tools available online that can help you understand how at risk you are for lung cancer. Bear in mind, however, that the results you receive are only an estimate. It’s best to visit your doctor and discuss your risk and concerns in person.

Your Disease Risk

Physicians and scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital have developed risk assessment tools for many different diseases and cancers.

American Association for Thoracic Surgery Calculator

The American Association for Thoracic Surgery is a professional society for surgeons who operate on the lungs and chest. Their risk assessment can help you understand your risk for lung cancer.

How to lower your risk

Making certain lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of lung cancer. You’d be surprised at how much still lies within your control, even if you’re at a higher-than-average risk.

Quit smoking

Many people who smoke, and especially those who’ve smoked for a period of years, believe that little good could come from quitting. They fear that they’ve already damaged their lungs past the point of repair. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Quitting smoking is incredibly beneficial, even to patients who’ve already been diagnosed with cancer. It’s amazing how quickly the lungs can start to heal.

Learn more about smoking cessation resources at Siteman Cancer Center.

Get screened for lung cancer

Individuals with certain risk factors for lung cancer are sometimes advised to undergo regular screening. Catching lung cancer early can improve patients’ outcomes.

Lung cancer screening is painless and involves a chest CT scan and tobacco cessation counseling.

Determine if you qualify for lung cancer screening through Siteman Cancer Center.