Lung CancerLung Cancer Causes

Let's Talk About Lung Cancer Causes

Of all the cancers you could get, lung cancer has some of the most easily identifiable risk factors—including a big one that's completely in your control to eliminate. Learn what experts say you can do to reduce your risk of this disease.

    Our Pro PanelLung Cancer Causes

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in lung cancer to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Jacob Sands, M.D.

    Jacob Sands, M.D.Thoracic Medical Oncologist and Instructor in Medicine

    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School
    Boston, MA
    Matthew Schabath, Ph.D.

    Matthew Schabath, Ph.D.Epidemiologist and Thoracic Oncologist

    H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
    Tampa, FL
    Elisabeth Dexter, M.D.

    Elisabeth Dexter, M.D.Thoracic Surgeon and Quality Assurance Officer for the Department of Thoracic Surgery

    Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
    Buffalo, NY

    Frequently Asked QuestionsLung Cancer Causes

    Can I reduce my lung cancer risk if I quit smoking?

    Yes. Heavy smokers who kick the habit have a 39% lower risk of lung cancer within five years of quitting than those who continue smoking, notes a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Plus, your risk continues to fall with each passing year after quitting.

    How do I know if I’m exposed to radon?

    You can—and should—test your home for radon. Test kits can be found at your local home improvement store, through the American Lung Association. If you prefer, you can also hire a certified radon-testing professional. Find one through your state radon program.

    When it comes to lung cancer risk, how dangerous is social smoking?

    Even one cigarette a day over your lifetime can cause lung cancer, according to studies. Women between the ages of 35 and 49 who smoke one to four cigarettes a day are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than their non-smoking counterparts. For men, that risk is threefold.

    Does a family history of lung cancer increase my risk?

    Yes. If you have a family history of lung cancer, you are two to three times more likely to develop the disease. This has to do with shared environmental, behavioral, and genetic risks. However, if your parent smoked and got lung cancer, that doesn’t mean you will—if you don’t smoke. Smoking is still the biggest risk factor.

    Holly Pevzner

    Holly Pevzner


    Holly Pevzner is a health writer whose work has appeared in many publications, including EatingWell and Prevention.