Lung cancer has gone from simply being a reportable disease in the 1700s to being the number one cause of cancer deaths in both women and men. Lung cancer kills twice as many women as breast cancer and three times as many men as prostate cancer.
World Lung Cancer Day is an annual event that began on August 1, 2012, to raise awareness about lung cancer and lung health. Anyone with lungs is at risk for developing lung cancer. In observance of World Lung Cancer Day, Radonova encourages everyone to learn more about lung cancer, its causes, and how to prevent it.
History of lung cancer in the United States
The first mention of lung cancer is often attributed to 18th century Italian anatomist Giovanni Battista Morgagni. The dramatic increase over the centuries can be linked to economic, environmental, and sociological factors.
Economically, the tobacco crop has deep ties to the development of the colonization of the United States. Throughout history, the US tobacco industry has been credited as being a huge economic necessity even though it has become controversial with cigarette smoking being the cause of lung cancer, heart disease, and other fatal illnesses.
Environmental influences that contribute to lung cancer have beginnings in the Industrial Age. Air pollution released by factories include toxic chemicals and gases. Not only are factory workers exposed to carcinogenic chemicals while working, but the emissions from the plants pose a risk to the entire population who live within their proximity. The invention of the automobile increased air pollution worldwide through gas emissions and also through auto factory pollution and road construction.
Socially, smoking experienced a boom during the World Wars when care packages with cases of cigarettes were sent to soldiers all over the world to help improve soldier morale. During the same era, smoking was glamorized in the entertainment industry as movies and television increased in popularity. Smoking was considered fun, entertaining, and socially “cool” while lung cancer was not realized or promoted to be a dangerous consequence.
Causes of lung cancer
Lung cancer is caused when cells in the lungs mutate, or become damaged, when we breathe in dangerous substances or toxins. Cell mutation is the permanent change to the DNA sequence of a gene. Therefore, even if you inhaled toxic substances years ago, you are still at risk from lung cancer as a result.
According to the American Lung Association the top causes of lung cancer are:
- Smoking. Approximately 90% of lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking. Cigarette smokers also put those around them at risk through secondhand smoke. Children and employees who live and work with smokers are endangered. There is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoking.
- Radon. Radon exposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and the number one cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Estimates report that 1 in 15 homes in the United States have radon exposure. Smokers who are exposed to radon have an even higher risk of lung cancer.
- Hazardous chemicals and pollution. Asbestos, arsenic, cadmium, nickel, silica, uranium, and exhaust smoke are a few examples of chemicals that can be dangerous when inhaled. Particle pollution such as those inhaled by aerosol sprays increase the risk of lung cancer because toxic chemicals in the lungs can attach to them. Ask your employer about health symptoms such as headaches, wheezing, coughing, etc. that may be from hazardous chemicals you are exposed to on the job.
Radon and lung cancer
Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that forms when the uranium in natural stone below a home or building decays. The gas decays into harmful radioactive atoms that become caught in your lungs when you breathe. Over time this exposure causes lung cancer. It can take up to twenty years for symptoms from radon exposure to occur.
The key to preventing radon induced lung cancer is testing for radon in your home, work, schools, and other indoor or underground locations where you spend 4-6 hours per day. Testing for radon is recommended every 2 years by the EPA. It is also recommended to test when moving to a new home or renovating your current home.
Once you test, you can then take steps for radon removal if levels are high. A radon mitigation system is a fairly simple home repair that should be done by a certified radon mitigation professional. When installed properly, a radon mitigation system will significantly reduce the radon levels in your home – sometimes by as much as 99%.
Lung cancer prevention
Although lung cancer is the deadliest form of cancer, the American Cancer Society reports that rates have declined in recent years because of advances in treatments. We can all do our part in preventing lung cancer by:
- Quitting smoking and/or avoiding exposure to others who are smoking.
- Getting regular lung cancer screens to catch the disease in early stages when treatments are more effective.
- Testing for radon and taking radon reduction measures through radon mitigation when levels are high in homes, schools, daycare centers, and workplaces. Start with the Radonova residential radon detectors to determine radon levels in your home. If you are an employer, determine if a radon dosimetry measurement should be conducted.
- Protecting yourself from inhaling hazardous chemicals at work and elsewhere.
Honor World Lung Cancer Day by taking action to reduce your own risk factors for developing lung cancer. It can help save your life and the lives of your family, pets, and community members.
Radonova is the radon laboratory of choice for numerous government radon surveys, as well as other public and private sector large-scale measurement contracts around the world. A truly global laboratory, Radonova is active in over 50 countries and has performed millions of measurements.