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Risk Factors

What are the risk factors for lung cancer?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease, such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Several risk factors make a person more likely to develop lung cancer:

  • Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, with about 80% of lung cancer deaths thought to be a result of smoking.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Secondhand smoke — This refers to breathing in the smoke of others.
  • Radon — A radioactive gas that cannot been seen, tasted, or smelled. It is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium. High levels of radon may be found in some homes or other buildings, especially basements. 
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Talc — While no increased risk of lung cancer has been found from the use of cosmetic talcum powder, some studies of talc miners and millers suggest a higher risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases from their exposure to industrial-grade talc. Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral which, in its natural form, may contain asbestos; however, by law, all home-use talcum products (baby, body, and facial powders) have been asbestos-free since 1973.
  • Cancer-causing agents in the workplace, including:
    • Radioactive ores, such as uranium
    • Arsenic
    • Vinyl chloride
    • Nickel chromates
    • Coal products
    • Mustard gas
    • Chloromethyl ethers
    • Diesel exhaust
  • Personal or family history of lung cancer
  • Air pollution — In some cities, air pollution may slightly increase the risk of lung cancer.
Truven 2017
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