The Surprising Link Between Basements and Lung Cancer

Smoking is by far the largest risk factor for lung cancer, but that doesn’t mean that people who have never smoked will not suffer from lung cancer. In fact, according to US statistics, as much as 20% of lung cancer patients are non-smokers. What’s even more alarming is that the number of non-smoking cancer patients is rising, and many of these patients get diagnosed with the disease when it's too late. This inevitably raises the question: what other environmental factors may increase the likelihood of developing lung cancer? It turns out, there’s quite a few, with second-hand smoke being the leading cause.

1. Second-Hand Smoke

risk factors of lung cancer Second Hand Smoke
Even if you don’t smoke yourself, you can be exposed to tobacco smoke by simply being around people who do, be it in public spaces, at work, or at home. And while the concept of second-hand smoke being dangerous to one’s health is not new, the National Cancer Institute did update their regulations regarding second-hand smoke establishing it as an occupational carcinogen, as there are over 70 compounds in cigarette smoke that can cause cancer.
In fact, the same authority points out that second-hand smoke increases one’s likelihood of developing not only lung cancer but also breast cancer and cancers in the throat, nasal cavity and sinuses in adults, as well as raises the risk of children developing lymphomas, leukemia, and brain tumors. Thus, smoking can hurt not only the smoker themselves but also those around them, with second-hand smoke being the second highest environment risk factor for developing lung cancer.

2. Air Pollution

risk factors of lung cancer Air Pollution

Another ever-increasing environmental factor that can significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer is air pollution. Yes, the air we breathe in many places is so polluted that it can give you cancer. This is especially true for:

  • People who work in industrial areas.
  • Those who get exposed to dangerous chemicals, such as asbestos, as part of their job.
  • Those who live near industrial areas.
  • Urban pollution may also be a threat.

These threats were confirmed as important risk factors by the Word Health Organization in 2013. The major sources of air pollution mentioned in the report by the WHO are transportation, industrial and agricultural emissions, stationary power generation, and residential heating and cooking.

3. Exposure to Radon

risk factors of lung cancer Exposure to Radon

Radon is a type of invisible and otherwise undetectable gas often found in soil, and it has been found that people who work in underground facilities and those who have basements are most often exposed to this silent killer. The problem with these underground spaces is that the often don’t have proper ventilation, and radon accumulates in these closed spaces, often reaching critical concentrations.

When you enter a room with a high concentration of radon, it exposes your lung cells to radioactive compounds that may lead to DNA damage, which, in turn, can trigger the development of lung cancer. Radon is considered the second most common environmental cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Other Risk Factors and What To Do

Environmental causes are not the only risk factors of lung cancer, and things like genetic predisposition and radiation exposure can also increase the likelihood of getting this disease. After reading this article, if you think that you might be at a high risk of developing lung cancer, the best thing you can do is to undergo regular preventative screenings, as proven by several large-scale trials. This can help doctors find any concerning findings at an early stage of their development when it can still be completely treated.

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