Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths worldwide. In India, lung cancer accounts for 5.9% of all cancers and causes 8.1% of cancer-related deaths. The prevalence of smoking in lung cancer patients is approximately 80%. There are several ways to reduce the risk of lung cancer. Quitting smoking is one of the most effective risk-reducing strategies for lung cancer.
Reducing The Risk of Lung Cancer
- Avoid smoking: It has been estimated that 90% of lung cancers are associated with smoking. Several toxic substances, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and arsenic, are present in cigarettes, and these are responsible for causing cancer and other respiratory diseases. Smoking cigarettes may also result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is considered an independent risk factor for lung cancer. Therefore, it is vital to prevent initiating smoking or quit smoking to reduce the risk of cancer mortality and morbidity.
- Avoid second-hand smoke: Second-hand smoke is a known risk factor for lung cancer. According to the CDC, nearly 7,300 non-smokers die each year from lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke. Further, the growth of the lungs occurs from childhood to adulthood (until 25 years of age). According to one study, people who are first exposed to second-hand smoke before the age of 25 have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than those who are first exposed after the age of 25. For all these reasons, it is crucial to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke to reduce the risk of lung cancer.
- Healthy diet: A study has found that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, dietary fibres, and cereals reduces the risk of lung cancer. A recent study also concluded that the intake of refined carbohydrates found in processed foods, e.g., soft drinks, savoury snacks, fast foods, etc., can increase the risk of lung cancer. It is thus important to incorporate fruits, vegetables, fibres, and grains into your diet and avoid consuming processed meat and red meat.
- Exercise: Several studies have been conducted to determine the effect of exercise on the risk of lung cancer, and many have concluded that exercise plays a key role in bringing down the risk of lung cancer. One study found that there would be a reduction in the risk of lung cancer with an energy expenditure of 12,600 kJ/week. Another study reported that recreational and total physical activity reduces the risk of lung cancer by 20–50% in men and 20–30% in women. It is, therefore, important to incorporate exercise into a daily routine.
- Avoid radiation exposure to the chest: Radiation exposure to the chest area increases the risk of several pulmonary disorders. An increase in the risk of lung cancer is one of them. Several studies have found that women who receive radiation therapy for breast cancer have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Other radiation procedures, such as chest X-ray, PET, or CT scan, also affect the lungs. If the radiation treatment cannot be avoided, speak with your doctor about advanced treatment solutions for minimising the side effects of radiation.
- Avoid hazardous substance exposure: Exposure to certain environmental substances cancer increase your risk of lung cancer. These substances include arsenic, asbestos, silica, nickel, cadmium, and diesel exhaust. The risk of lung cancer increases with the level of exposure. Therefore, you should minimise exposure to these toxic substances.
- Reduce the risk of HIV infection: Patients with HIV infection are at increased risk of developing lung cancer, and this risk is independent of the status of smoking. Lung cancer may be caused in HIV-infected patients due to chronic inflammation, immunosuppression, and direct oncogenic effects. Therefore, it is crucial to quit smoking (if the patient is smoking) and undergo routine lung cancer screening for an early lung cancer diagnosis.
- Test surroundings for Radon levels: Radon exposure is the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is also the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Thus, you must get your surroundings checked for the level of radon. Consider installing a radon mitigation system and ensure your home has proper ventilation, in order to reduce radon levels at your home.
- Avoid certain supplements: Avoid taking any health supplements without the advice of your healthcare provider, especially if you are smoking. A study found that supplementation with beta-carotene in heavy smokers increases the risk of lung cancer by almost 18%. Similar concerns have also been raised for lutein, retinol, and vitamin E. You should also follow a healthy diet to meet your daily nutritional requirements.
- Stay informed about family medical history: It is imperative to be informed about the complete medical history of your family. For example, if any of your immediate family members, such as a parent or sibling, has a history of lung cancer, you have a greater risk of developing lung cancer. You should share this information with your doctor, and if necessary, you should consult a lung cancer specialist.
- Consult your doctor: If you are at an increased risk of lung cancer, consult your doctor. The doctor may advise you to undergo specific lung cancer screening tests that may be repeated regularly. Screening tests may help in detecting lung cancer at an early stage when it is most effectively treated. Heavy smokers may undergo low-dose computed tomography (CT scan). If the person is between 50 and 80 years of age with a ≥20 pack-year smoking history and is currently smoking or has quit smoking during the last 15 years, they should undergo annual lung cancer screening.
Several measures help reduce the risk of lung cancer. Fortunately, most are lifestyle modifications, such as quitting smoking, avoiding second-hand smoke, exercising regularly, and taking a healthy diet. Adopting these measures can bring your lung cancer risk significantly down.
As the best lung cancer hospital, HCG strives to deliver the best treatment and care to lung cancer patients. If you are experiencing any symptoms related to lung cancer and have an increased risk of developing lung cancer, it is important to consult a lung cancer specialist for early diagnosis and appropriate guidance.