Are you at risk for lung cancer?

Aug. 1 is World Lung Cancer Day, and while lung cancer is most commonly associated with smokers and tobacco users, there are other factors that can increase the risk for lung cancer in non-smokers and non-tobacco users. Environmental and health factors that can contribute to a higher lung cancer risk include second hand smoke, pollution, workplace exposures and genetics.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the biggest risk factor for non-smokers comes from exposure to radon gas, which most often occurs in homes built on soil with natural uranium deposits. The gas cannot be seen or smelled, so the best way to determine if your home has unusually high amounts of radon gas is to test for it.

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Along with testing your home, experts recommend avoiding prolonged social engagements with heavy smokers and establishments that allow smoking, and adopting a healthy diet to help lower your risk for lung cancer. It’s also important to factor in any family history of the disease, and try to avoid exposure to elements such as asbestos in the workplace.

While the symptoms of lung cancer differ from patient to patient, many patients won’t present with specific symptoms until the cancer is relatively advanced. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the following symptoms are most prominent:

  • Frequent coughing that gets worse or persists
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Repeated cases of pneumonia

The American Cancer Society recommends beginning screenings in seemingly healthy patients aged 55 to 74 years, who have at least a 30-pack-per-year smoking history and who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

To request an appointment with the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, call 713-798-2262.

-By Allison Mickey

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