Lung cancer and its causes

Lung cancer starts with cells in the airway that have suffered permanent damage. This damage results in an abnormal uncontrolled growth of cells and can spread to other parts of your body (metastasis). Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death in the world.

There are many causes linked to lung cancer. The most important and well understood risk factor is cigarette smoking.

*Alberg AJ, Samet JM. Epidemiology of Lung Cancer. Chest. 2003; 123:21-49.

*Alberg AJ, Samet JM. Epidemiology of Lung Cancer. Chest. 2003; 123:21-49.

Other known risk factors for lung cancer are:

  • long term exposure to radon (a colorless, odorless gas that miners are exposed to, and which can accumulate in the basement of some homes);
  • occupational exposure to asbestos, arsenic, and some types of chromium and silica;
  • a diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis, made by a doctor; and
  • a family history of lung cancer.