Tag Archives: Lung Cancer Risk Factors

Lung Cancer Killer: Not about Facts, But about Actions

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

4 hands tightened_best-beginnings-alaska.orgLung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among both men and women in the United States and worldwide.

Smoking is the killer in approximately 90% of men and 80% of women who have died of lung cancer.

Did I tell you something new? Likely not.

But why do smokers still smoke? And why did the world fail to prevent lung cancer by stopping tobacco use?

Lung cancer is a horrible disease. It develops sneakily and rapidly. It is very difficult to detect lung cancer at early stages with current technologies. This disease is often deadly with poor prognosis once diagnosed.

Lung cancer claims an estimated 1.4 million lives each year worldwide. NCI estimated 228,190 new cases and 159,480 deaths from lung cancer (non-small cell and small cell combined) in the United States in 2013. As a result, lung cancer has changed so many people’s lives including smokers, non-smokers and their loved ones.

Paradoxically, lung cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Specifically, the most important, effective preventive measures are cessation of cigarette smoking and elimination of tobacco exposure. I am sure we all want to end this tragedy. Why has the change happened?

All kinds of tobacco products including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or pipe tobacco are addictive, hazardous and harmful. No tobacco product is safe, period. Tobacco use contributes to not only lung cancer, but also cancer of various types, cardiovascular disease, mouth problems, and other illnesses.

The number one things a person can do to prevent lung cancer is to not start smoking, or to quit if he or she currently smokes. A majority of smokers start as adolescents, most of them seek to fit in with “a crowd”. As life goes on, the crowd is gone, but the habit and damage continue. Therefore, boys and girls do not start smoking. And fit in for your long-term wellbeing. Smokers can be addicted to tobacco, which is not an excuse. For a smoker, quitting immediately can benefit yourself and make the world around you a better place. Remember: it is never too late to stop.

Non-smokers should avoid secondhand smoke by all means. Smoke exhaled from a smoker or a lit cigarette contains over 60 known carcinogens (i.e. cancer-causing agents) along with hundreds of other toxins.

Women are highly susceptible to lung cancer. Research shows that tobacco smoking may double a woman’s risk for lung cancer, because it has as twice of carcinogenic effect on a woman as on a man.

Everybody, from spouses, family members and friends, educators, doctors and nurses, to every organization, every industry, and of course, government or policy makers, can step in to prevent lung cancer especially when the cause is quite clear. We all can do something to help change the world and lives of many, many, for good.

 

Image credit: bestbeginningsalaska.org

Early Detection of Lung Cancer: What’s New and Who’s at Risk?

A year ago this month, my father died of lung cancer. He was a non-smoker, did not consume alcohol, and lived a healthy lifestyle. From the time he was diagnosed to the time of his passing, it was less than two and half months. Sadly, like my father, countless individuals are at an advanced stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis, ending up with little time.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Patients with lung cancer are often symptomless yet have poor prognosis. In contrast to advances in the screening of breast, prostate and colon cancer, progress with early detection of lung cancer is falling behind.

Update on lung cancer screening

Currently, there is no well-accepted routine for lung cancer screening. Lung cancer is diagnosed mainly by:
1. Chest X-ray: less effective at an early stage, and less costly.
2. Computed Tomography (CT): significantly more sensitive than chest X-ray for identifying lung cancer when it’s small and asymptomatic; however, it’s expansive, and not feasible for large population screening. Due to its sensitivity, of course, abnormalities revealed by CT scan are not all cancerous.

Other tests and promising methods include (but are not limited to):
1. Sputum cytology: used to check mucus brought up from the lungs by coughing;
2. Biopsy for area(s) of abnormality: effective though risky;
3. Lung cancer biomarkers: Although numerous biomarkers for lung cancer have been studied, their specificity and sensitivity are disappointing clinically.
4. Auto-fluorescence bronchoscopy: used to help detect mucosal changes of early lesions that may appear subtle on normal bronchoscopy;
5. Molecular screening for transformation of bronchial epithelial cells.

Advances in lung cancer screening are still underway. Despite the problems with various tests, early detection can be a life-saving decision, particularly for people at higher risks.

Lung cancer risk factors include:

-  Cigarette/tobacco smoking (a major risk factor)
-  passive smoking
-  family or personal history of lung cancer
-  lung diseases (e.g. pulmonary tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis)
-  radon exposure
-  asbestos exposure
-  environmental pollution
-  certain occupational exposures (e.g. arsenic, chromium, nickel, soot, and tar)
-  age over 65 years old

Who’s at the highest risk?

Although not everybody who has ever smoked should be over concerned with early detection, individuals with combined risk factors should certainly be encouraged to be proactive. These could include: former or current smokers who actually have incurred damage from their smoking, individuals who have prior history of cancer (even cured), patients who have any lung disease or have been exposed to asbestos or have family history of cancer. These folks are at increased risk for the development of lung cancer. The risk from air pollution is higher for all smokers. Furthermore, given an equal amount of tobacco exposure, women are at higher risk for developing lung cancer than men.

A dose of wisdom

Early detection of cancer is like the timely discovery of a weak yet critical part of a machine. Just as, for instance, your car benefits from fixing the problem early, so does your body.

To learn more information about Lung cancer, check out this booklet:
What do you need to know about lung cancer?