Cigarette

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is one of the major causes of death for over 60s in the US and the UK. Cigarette smoking is well-known as the main cause, but is there more to it?

According to Cancer Research UK:
A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors).
1 in 13 UK males and 1 in 15 UK females will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime.
79% of lung cancer cases in the UK are preventable.
72% of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by smoking.
5% of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by ionising radiation.
13% of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by workplace exposures.
8% of lung cancer cases in the UK are caused by air pollution.

Prevention

The American Cancer Society says that “not all lung cancers can be prevented. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk, such as changing the risk factors that you can control.”
For older or retired people these include
Stay away from tobacco: The best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is not to smoke and to avoid breathing in other people’s smoke. If you stop smoking before a cancer develops, your damaged lung tissue gradually starts to repair itself. No matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked, quitting may lower your risk of lung cancer and help you live longer.
Avoid radon exposure. Radon is an important cause of lung cancer. You can reduce your exposure to radon by having your home tested and treated, if needed.
Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may help reduce your risk of lung cancer.

In “How Not to Die”, Doctor Greger says that lung cancer is primarily caused by smoking, but it also can arise from fumes from frying, so make sure you have good ventilation. Frying meat and fish is worse than vegetables for the chemicals generated. Processed meat like bacon is even worse.

So, the overall message is that if you smoke, you must stop, so as to eliminate the majority of risk. You should also avoid situations where you’d breathe in third-party smoke from others, which can be just as bad long-term.

One thing not mentioned in most sources is vaping. Potentially it can create its own issues for the lung, in place of those from the burning tars in cigarettes. However, it’s too early to have statistics on this, and complicated by the range of chemicals and flavourings being vaporised.

A Harvard study, reviewing cases of lung cancer linked to vaping, concludes that “These cases of severe lung disease among people who vape raise important questions about the safety of vaping. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that lung problems might develop in people who vape: our lungs were meant to inhale clean air and nothing else. It took many years to recognize the damage cigarettes can cause. We could be on a similar path with vaping.”

So, it’s safer for now to avoid vaping also as a potential risk.

To reduce your risk further, focus on a healthy diet (with plenty of fruit and veg), and avoid breathing in the carcinogenic fumes from frying or barbecuing meat.

Radon exposure is a tricky one, as most people would not be aware that they had a problem. The safe approach is that if your area is known for high radon levels, then it’s probably worth having a survey of your property at least once, for reassurance.

Sources

Cancer Research UK on risks: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/lung-cancer#heading-Three

ACA on prevention: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html

Harvard on vaping: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-vaping-damage-your-lungs-what-we-do-and-dont-know-2019090417734

Link to my post on “How Not to Die

Link to my post on “Cancer

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