Lillian Wilson

Lung Cancer: The Basics and How to Minimise Your Risk

Lung cancer deprives of a basic human need – breathing. Luckily, medicine and healthy habits lower the risk of cancer and mortality rate.


Take a deep breath. Notice how enjoyable it is to feel your lungs filling with air. Now imagine what it would be like if you could not breathe. What do you feel?

All forms of cancer torment people’s lives. The disease does not care about who you are or what you have accomplished in life. It can strike anyone, at any time. Cancer is a ruthless killer that can leave families shattered and broken. The worst thing is when cancer deprives you of a basic need which is a need to breathe.

In 2020, 1.8 million people died from lung cancer. The disease caused 2.6% of all death in 2020 globally. Every year around 2.2 million people are diagnosed with lung cancer.

If compared to the most brand-new human killer, Covid-19, lung cancer claims fewer lives. The total number of global deaths caused by the coronavirus outbreak in 2020 is at least 3 million.

Despite the fact that COVID-19 claimed more lives the 5-year survival rate of lung cancer is only 22% while the survival rate of COVID-19 comprises now is 99%. Thus there should be more awareness raised about lung cancer.

The 5-year Survival Rate from Lung Cancer, stats Source:

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer occupies the first place in this deadly ranking of lung killers. Lung cancer is an invasive and dangerous disease, which originates within the lungs of an individual. This type of cancer begins when healthy cells in one or both lungs begin to mutate and reproduce rapidly, leading to a buildup of harmful tissue.

It is of utmost importance to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors of this disease because when lung cancer is detected early, meaning the cancer is localized and has not begun spreading, the five-year survival rate is 56%. Only a mere 16% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed early.

Main risk factors of cancer

Smoking is responsible for 90% of death

The American Lung Association reveals that smoking tobacco brings about up to 90% of all lung cancer deaths.

The worst thing is that by their actions smokers harm not only themselves but put people around them at a risk too. Nonsmokers have a 20–30% higher risk of developing lung cancer if they are regularly exposed to cigarette smoke.

The good news is that the mortality rate of lung cancer is gradually decreasing.

According to Our World in Data, the number of people dying from lung cancer in the UK in the time period of 2000 to 2019 dropped from 46 death of men and 23 death of women per 100,000 people to 28 and 21 death of men and women per 100,000 people respectively.

The declines are attributable to the increase in people not starting to smoke, quitting smoking, and advancements in diagnosis and treatment.

According to World Health Organization, over the period 2000–2020, tobacco use has declined steadily among both sexes. Approximately 1.37 billion people over the age of 15 consumed tobacco products in 2000. In 2020, that number reached 1.30 billion. By 2025, it is projected to decline to 1.27 billion.

Gender for smokers

There is about a 1 in 15 chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime, and a 1 in 17 chance for a woman. These risks apply to both smokers and non-smokers, but the risk is generally higher for smokers and lower for non-smokers.

Radon exposure makes you vulnerable to cancer

Radon is a gas that is naturally formed in rocks, soil, and water. It is invisible to our senses – you cannot see, smell or taste it. Radon can get into our dwellings through holes or some cracks and then get trapped and build up in the air inside of a building. When a person is exposed to radon for a long period of time it can cause lung cancer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates about 21,000 death from lung cancer are caused by radon.

Genetic predisposition causes 5-10% of lung cancer

If your parents or other relatives of your nuclear family had cancer that may put you in the risk zone of developing it. Genetic specialists estimate that 5-10% of all cancers are caused by the inheritance of a faulty gene.

Main symptoms of lung cancer

Early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment as this condition usually requires intensive care. It is important to be versed in the main symptoms associated with lung cancer so you can get help as quickly as possible. Lung cancer is one of the most prevalent and serious forms of cancer and its main symptoms can include coughing, chest pain, wheezing and coughing with blood.

  • Coughing is often one of the earliest signs of lung cancer because it indicates an issue in the lungs. If a person experiences coughing that lasts more than 7 days or coughing that increases in intensity or frequency, they may be experiencing a symptom of lung cancer.

  • Chest pain. If chest pain persists or increases over time and is accompanied by coughing and/or coughing with blood, then medical evaluation is suggested to discern if there are any underlying issues such as a malignancy.

  • Coughing up blood or blood-tinged sputum may result from tumours blocking airways in the lungs and can indicate an urgent need for medical attention.

Four ways to reduce the risk of death from lung cancer

As medical treatment brings about a lot of complications and side effects, the best solution you may make to protect your lungs is to take on the following healthy habits.

1Quit ASAP if you smoke or do not begin smoking

Smoking is the number 1 cause of lung cancer. Up to 90% of lung cancer deaths occur as a result of cigarette smoking in the United States. Over 7,000 chemicals are present in tobacco smoke. At least 70 of these chemicals are known to result in cancer. Tobacco smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to develop lung cancer or die from it than non-smokers.

1500%-3000% Higher risk of lung cancer for smokers vs non-smokers

2Add more plants and spices to your diet

Despite the existence of effective treatment, prevention of lung cancer is the best approach to take, at any time it is feasible. Making dietary changes and exercising more can help one reduce their risk as diet affects cancer-causing capacity.

Broccoli may reduce the detrimental effect of smoking

Cell DNA can be damaged by tobacco smoke, which increases the chance of cancer cells forming and flourishing.

The research compared two groups of longtime smokers: those that didn’t consume broccoli and those that were asked to eat a single stalk of broccoli per day. The results showed that over ten days, smokers that ate broccoli regularly experienced 41% fewer DNA changes in the bloodstream. Consuming broccoli may make you more resilient at a subcellular level as well as increase the activity of detoxifying enzymes that serves to clear carcinogens in the liver. If you are an avid smoker do not think that eating broccoli will completely harbour the cancer-causing effect of tobacco but it still can prevent some damage as well as serve as a perfect replacement for cigarettes. You netter nine on broccoli than harm your lungs with coffin nails.

Broccoli stops cancer cells from growing

Broccoli also may show off their positive effect on lung cancer.

85% of women who are diagnosed with lung cancer die within five years. Almost 90% of those deaths are caused by metastasis – the spread of cancer into other parts of the body.

Certain compounds in broccoli found in earlier research studies appear to slow the advance of metastasis. In a 2010 study, scientists placed a layer of human lung cancer cells in a petri dish and cleared a strip in the middle. Within twenty-four hours, the cancer cells had joined, and within thirty hours the gap had completely closed. Stunningly, when scientists added a few drops of cruciferous-vegetable compounds to the cancer cells, the cancer growth ceased.

Turmeric kills cancer cells

Turmeric contains curcumin – a bioactive compound that gives turmeric its bright colour. Curcumin is known for its capacity to prevent and arrest cancer cell growth.

Curcumin has been found to be an effective antimutagen against various cancer-causing substances. Scientists have studied the effects of curcumin on the mutagenic activity of these carcinogens and have concluded that it does indeed protect DNA from being mutated by them.

The most crucial thing about curcumin is that it affects the process of division of cancer cells. All cells have elements called death receptors, that activate the healthy and necessary self-destruction sequence. However, cancel cells turn this function off. Contrastingly, curcumin turns this sequence back on in cancerous cells.

The results of several clinical studies reveal that curcumin expands the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, leading to improved patient survival time and increased expression of anti-metastatic proteins, along with a reduction in their side effects.

3Sleep 7-8 hours to ward off cancer

Sleep is essential for optimal physical and mental health. Recent studies suggest that it also has the potential to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. Evidently, the found potential link between sleep and decreased lung cancer can be traced back to melatonin, a hormone primarily associated with sleep. Melatonin acts as an antioxidant defence against carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects caused by smoking or other environmental factors.

Another study showed that people who sleep less than 7 hours and those who sleep more than 8 hours a day have 18% and 17% per cent higher lung cancer risk respectively. Therefore, an adequate amount of sleep that is 7-8 hours positively affects health and prevents lung cancer risk significantly and should not be overlooked as a potential preventative measure.

4Exercise and drop your risk of lung cancer

Physical activity is linked with a lower risk of developing lung cancer, as well as many other cancers. Everyone benefits from exercise, whether they are women or men, smokers or former smokers. And the best part is that you do not need to work out hours a day or join a costly health club to make a difference. The recommendation is to exercise for about 30 minutes three times per week (moderate-intensity aerobic exercise) and for about 20 to 30 minutes twice per week (resistance exercise).

One study shows that people who performed moderate activity more than once a week were 21% less likely to develop lung cancer than those who weren’t physically active. Those who did vigorous activity more than once a week were 29% less likely to develop lung cancer than those who rarely or never did.

How to keep lung cancer away?

Lung cancer is a severe disease that affects more than 2 million people annually. The very disease brings a lot of torment for those who succumb to it as well as for relatives that are seeing their loved ones fading away and becoming weaker and weaker. Fortunately due to a decent level of medicine and the trend of quitting smoking the death rate is decreasing. It is never too late to start taking care of your lungs. By following the tips given in this blog post, you can improve your lung health and prevent this illness.

Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues

If you want to learn more about lung cancer, we recommend you read the book ‘How not to die’ by Michael Greger. Not only it provides insight into preventing and dealing with lung cancer and other severe conditions but also offers tips on having a healthy lifestyle that can protect you from diseases and premature death. The very article is inspired by this book. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to improve their overall health and longevity.

How not to die Book Cover

Learn more about how radon exposure can lead to lung cancer. Jackie Nixon, a non-smoker who has always led a healthy lifestyle, shares her shocking story of lung cancer triggered by her being exposed to radon for 30 years. Dr Maley, Jackie’s surgeon, notes that medical professionals are becoming more aware of the link between radon and lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually.

Healthypedia FAQ

The most common causes of lung cancer include smoking, second-hand smoking, exposure to radon, air pollution, and genetic predisposition.

The first step in preventing lung cancer is to quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke. Second, you can reduce your exposure to radon by not living in an area with high levels of radon gas. Third, eat healthily and exercise regularly. Lastly, get screened for lung cancer with a low-dose CT scan if you are at high risk because it can detect early signs of the disease before they become life-threatening

The most common symptoms of lung cancer are: coughing up blood, persistent and chronic cough without any other cause, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, hoarseness, and weight loss.

Surgery is the most common treatment for lung cancer. It is used to remove the tumour and any surrounding tissue. Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells in the body. Radiation therapy is a type of treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells in the body. Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to target specific mutations in tumour cells.

If you want to know if you have lung cancer, there are a few symptoms that may indicate that you do. These symptoms include persistent cough, blood in your phlegm or sputum, chest pain or shortness of breath, and weight loss.

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