Small Cell Lung Cancer Risk Factors
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What Are the Risk Factors for Small Cell Lung Cancer?
Certain risk factors increase a person's chance for developing small cell lung cancer. Exposure to some carcinogens may increase the likelihood of developing small cell lung cancer over a lifetime.
These cancer-causing chemicals may be found in everyday items, such as diesel fumes and tobacco smoke, as well as outdoor air pollution. Of all these substances, cigarette smoke is the leading cause of small cell lung cancer.
Smoking and Small Cell Lung Cancer Risk
Cigarette smoke is a leading risk factor for small cell lung cancer. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day for any extended period of time. Non-smokers who are regularly exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke are also at an increased risk for developing small cell lung cancer.
Smokers who quit before the lung cancer develops live longer than people who continue to smoke. This is because, once a smoker quits, the lungs are capable of repairing the damaged tissue.
Doctors cannot say with certainty whether one cigarette or 100 cigarettes will cause lung cancer. What research does suggest, however, is that of all the risk factors for small cell lung cancer, smoking is perhaps the most likely to cause this disease.
Small Cell Lung Cancer Associated Risks
Besides cigarette smoke, doctors have discovered a variety of small cell lung cancer risk factors that may lead to the disease. These risk factors include:
Radon - When uranium breaks down in soil and rock it releases a naturally occurring radioactive gas called radon. This gas may be found in the basements of older homes or buildings. Exposure to concentrated amounts of radon gas increases a person's risk for developing small cell lung cancer. Test kits that can detect and measure levels of radon are widely availabe.
Workplace Exposure - There are a variety of industries where workers are regularly exposed to carcinogens. For example, people exposed to industrial materials, such as asbestos have an increased risk for lung cancer. Asbestos exposure is a common risk factor for another type of cancer called mesothelioma. Other workplace agents that factor into small cell lung cancer include:
- Radioactive ores
- Inhaled chemicals or minerals, such as beryllium, cadmium, silica, vinyl chloride and nickel compounds
- Diesel exhaust
Radiation Therapy - Cancer patients who have undergone radiation therapy to the chest are at an increased risk of developing lung cancers.
A Family History - Anyone previously diagnosed with lung cancer or anyone with a family history of the disease has an increased risk. In particular, people who inherit chromosome 6 are more likely to develop lung cancer.
Exposure to one or more of these risk factors may or may not cause small cell lung cancer. This is why it is important to discuss your risks with a qualified healthcare professional.
NOTE: Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.
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