It has been estimated that active smoking is responsible for close to 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer that can be modified.
The risk you have accumulated from smoking never disappears. However, quitting will help decrease your risk. After being smoke free for 10 years, you’re half as likely to die from lung cancer, according to the American Heart Association.
How much risk you have depends on several factors, such as how many years you smoked, how many cigarettes you smoked per day, and what age you started to smoke. It’s important to remember that there are many benefits to quitting smoking that are just as important as decreasing your risk from dying of lung cancer.
Smoking is by far the strongest risk factor for developing lung cancer. Other risk factors can be:
- Hereditary factors (i.e., having a close relative who has had lung cancer)
- Occupational or domestic exposures to carcinogens, such as asbestos or radon contribute to risk
- The presence of lung problems, such as COPD or interstitial lung disease
- Exposure to second hand smoke
Lung cancer is often found late and in an advanced stage making it harder than other cancers to treat. As a result, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the U.S. That statistic is changing with the development of a lung cancer screening.
The screening for lung cancer was developed as a result of the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST), which was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. NLST demonstrated that an annual screening with low-dose CT scanning under the guidance of a dedicated comprehensive lung cancer screening program resulted in a 20 percent decrease in deaths related to lung cancer – equivalent to saving 1 in 5 lives.
Using a type of CT scan known as low-dose CT, physicians can view detailed pictures of the chest to help find abnormalities in the lungs that a normal x-ray can’t. A low-dose CT uses lower amounts of radiation than a standard chest CT.
A lung cancer screening is recommended if you:
- Are between 55 and 80-years-old
- Are currently a smoker or have quit within the past 15 years
- Have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years (or the equivalent)
It’s never too late to quit smoking and reduce your risk for lung cancer. If you think you’re at risk, talk to your physician about a lung cancer screening.
The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Memorial offers a comprehensive Lung Cancer Screening Program to detect lung cancer early, at the most curable stage, as well as a Freedom from Smoking Program to help tobacco users gain control over their behavior and quit smoking.
For more information, call 800-MEMORIAL or visit our page on the Lung Nodule Center.