RISK FACTORS

FOR LUNG CANCER*

Risk factors increase your chances of developing lung cancer. Certain risk factors – called modifiable risk factors – are things that you can change. Others, such as a person’s family history, are out of your control. Knowing if you’re at risk and speaking with your doctor can help you get the advantage over lung cancer.

Lung cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in Canada.

  • Risk factors you can control are responsible for about 85% of lung cancer cases
  • Between 2020–2045, an estimated 623,500 lung cancer cases could potentially be preventable

Work with your doctor to find out if there are changes you can make in your life to reduce your risk of lung cancer. Learn about the risk factors below and talk to your doctor if you think you or a loved one might be at risk.

Known risk factors you can control*

Smoking

Smoking

Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable lung cancer. The longer a person smokes and the more  they smoke each day, the greater their risk.

  • In 2015, it was estimated that 72% of all lung cancer cases diagnosed were caused by smoking

It’s never too late to quit! Quitting smoking at any age can help reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. If you or a loved one need help to quit smoking, talk to your doctor.

In one study, E–cigarette use, or vaping, has been shown to be increasing among youths aged 16–19 in Canada between 2017 and 2018. The long–term effects of e–cigarettes are unknown, and they may lead to cigarette smoking in the future.

Radon

Radon

Radon is a colourless, odorless, tasteless gas that is made from the natural breakdown of uranium rock and soil. The radon found outdoors does not normally cause any harm because it gets spread out in the fresh air. Radon becomes a problem when it seeps into your home through your floors or cracks in your foundation. It may reach unsafe levels in closed spaces with bad air circulation.   

The risk of developing lung cancer depends on how much radon you are exposed to and how long you are exposed to it. If it is determined that you have high radon levels in your home, there are ways to lower the amount and help reduce the risk of developing lung cancer for you and your loved ones.

After smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers and the leading cause of lung cancer in non–smokers.

Physical inactivity

Physical inactivity

Studies have shown that regularly active people are less likely to develop lung cancer. By getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, that raises your heart rate each day, you can help reduce your risk.

Find an activity you enjoy that gets you up and moving each day. It could be walking, swimming, cycling or playing a sport with friends.

Air pollution

Air pollution

Air pollution is harmful chemicals or particles in the air that you breathe. The type of pollutants in the air depends on the area or region that you are in. You may find higher levels of pollutants in large cities, especially near heavily trafficked roads.

Outdoor air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. The more you are in air pollution, the higher your risk.

Some research estimated that 5% of lung cancer deaths worldwide may be due to outdoor air pollution.

Being exposed to certain chemicals at work

Being exposed to certain chemicals at work

Workers in some industries may regularly be exposed to cancer–causing chemicals that increase the risk of developing lung cancer. These toxic chemicals include asbestos, diesel engine exhaust, uranium and other radioactive agents, arsenic, nickel, cadmium, chromium compounds, crystalline silica, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers – and several others. People who work in the following industries have the highest risk:

  • Construction
  • Transportation
  • Mining
  • Certain manufacturing sectors

If your job puts you at an increased risk of being around cancer–causing chemicals, make sure that you are taking all the necessary precautions.

In 2020, an estimated 80% of lung cancer cases could have been attributed to certain known risk factors you can control.

Possible risk factors you can control*
  • Second–hand smoke
  • Low fruit consumption
  • Low vegetable consumption
Possible risk factors you can’t control*
  • Family history
  • Personal history of lung disease
  • Weakened immune system
If you think you’re at risk or have symptoms of lung cancer, talk to your doctor right away.

If you think you’re at risk or have symptoms of lung cancer, talk to your doctor right away.

Download the Early Detection Discussion Guide

MVP=most valuable player.

*
Please note that this list is not exhaustive and there are other risk factors for lung cancer. If you have any questions about lung cancer risk factors, be sure to ask your doctor.

When considering the following known and possible modifiable risk factors: tobacco, physical inactivity, residential radon, air pollution, second–hand smoke, low fruit consumption and low vegetable consumption.

When considering the following known modifiable risk factors: tobacco, physical inactivity, residential radon and air pollution.