What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors and whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having one or more risk factor does not mean that you will develop cancer. Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing lung cancer include:
- smoking cigarettes, pipes or cigars currently or in the past – this is the greatest risk factor for lung cancer, and the risk is greatest for people who began smoking early in life, smoked for longer and smoked more often
- exposure to secondhand smoke (passive smoking)
- personal or family history of lung cancer
- personal cancer, including lung cancer, head and neck cancer and bladder cancer
- Occupational exposures, such as radon, asbestos, silica and diesel exhaust. Exposure to asbestos also increases the risk of developing mesothelioma, which starts in the lining surrounding the lungs (the pleura)
- exposure to air pollution
- A history of certain chronic diseases of the lungs, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary fibrosis.
Find out more about:
- Risk factors for lung cancer: an overview of the evidence
- Cancer Australia Position Statement: Lifestyle risk factors and the primary prevention of cancer