What's my risk?
If someone you know just found out they have lung cancer or have heard about lung cancer in the news, you might be wondering about your own risks. How can you find out if you're at higher risk for a lung cancer diagnosis?
Â It's important to know that risk is just the possibility of getting lung cancer. Scientists develop risk information from their studies of large numbers of people. This type of research gives us a big picture or general idea of risk. Your individual history and genetics will determine your actual risk. Consult with your physician to get a more personalized risk assessment.
Lung Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death among both men and women.Â Learn more from CDC Lung Cancer Statistics.
Increasing age is a risk factor for lung cancer.Â It is less common in people under age 40.Â More diagnoses occur after age 45 and a larger number over age 65.
The probability of getting lung cancer changes with age.Â This chart refers to the risk of getting cancer.Â Please note this is different than the chances of surviving lung cancer versus other types.
Probabilities of Getting Cancer
|Type of cancer||Â||Birth to age 39||Age 40 â€“ 59||Age 60 â€“ 79||Birth to Death|
1 in 3164
|1 in 95|
1 in 123
|1 in 17|
1 in 26
|1 in 13|
1 in 18
|Breast||Female||1 in 207||1 in 24||1 in 13||1 in 7|
|Prostate||Male||1 in 9879||1 in 39||1 in 7||1 in 6|
|1 in 1484|
1 in 1586
|1 in 111|
1 in 145
|1 in 25|
1 in 33
|1 in 17|
1 in 18
(Source:Â American Cancer Society)
Page last updated 9/15/06
The probabilities of surviving are very different.
- 99% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will be alive 5 years later.
- 88% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be alive 5 years later.
- 63% of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer will survive at least 5 years.
- Lung cancer's five year survival rate is dramatically different, 15%.
Tobacco addiction is by far the most important risk factor in the development of lung cancer. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 different chemicals, many of which are proven carcinogens (substances that cause cancer).Â Â Cigarettes increase the chance of getting lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.Â About 85% of all lung cancers are in people who smoke or who have smoked. Â There are approximately 123,386 lung cancer deaths per year attributable to smoking1.Â (Source:Â CDC)
But what if I quit smoking?
Unfortunately, even if you have quit smoking you are at risk.Â The risk does decrease the longer ago you quit, but it never returns to zero.
"The relative risk of developing lung cancer declines in former smokers to approximately twice that of never smokers after 20 years of cessation, but it remains elevated indefinitely."2 Relative risk compares the risk when you have been exposed to something to the risk when you haven't been exposed.
Men who are current smokers are 23 times more likely to die of lung cancer than men who have never smoked.Â
Male former smokers are 9 times more likely to die of lung cancer than never smokers.Â
Relative risks of death for female current smokers are 13 times more likely as never smokers.
Female former smokers are 5 times as likely as female never smokers.
(Source:Â CDC SAMMEC)
Extended Exposure to Secondhand or Passive Smoke
3,060 lung cancer deaths a year are attributable to secondhand smoke.
Other Risk Factors
15% of lung cancers were caused by something other than cigarettes. We know, for example, that exposure to radon puts people at risk for lung cancer.
Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil and rocks. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, with an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year related to radon exposure, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Â Find out more about radon. Â Study Shows Link Between Residential Radon Exposure and Lung Cancer.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â For example arsenic, asbestos, uranium, and diesel fuel.Â Â Inhaled metalsÂ may play a role, according to recent findings. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Radiation Therapy to the chest area
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â American Cancer Society
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Article
Recurring Inflammation of the Lung
Previous lung disease such as emphysema, COPD, or tuberculosis can leave scars in the lung.Â This scarring can increase the risk of the most common type of non-small cell lung cancer.
Family History of Lung Cancer/Genetics
Scientists have not yet identified a gene or genes linked directly to lung cancer.Â Researchers have found that among the families in their studies they suspected had familial lung cancer, "any amount of cigarette smoking strongly increased risk."3Â It is unlikely that such a form of familial lung cancer would account for more than 1-2% of lung cancers.Â Out of 172,570 projected cases in 2005, 1% = 1,726 people.
Research in the United States has produced results which suggest that adults who have or had a fully biologically related parent or sibling with lung cancer, especially one who was diagnosed before age 50, is at increased risk for lung cancer.Â Much more research needs to be done, but family history of lung cancer in a parent or sibling is important for people and their physicians to keep in mind.
RISK ASSESSMENT TOOLS
Here are some tools that assess risk for getting lung cancer.
If you are a current or former smoker:
- The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's web tool "can assess a long-term smoker's risk of developing lung cancer in the next 10 years based on the person's age, sex, smoking history, and asbestos exposure" and covers the following people:
- Age: 50 to 75 years old
- Smoking History: 10 to 60 cigarettes (i.e. Â½ pack-3 packs) a day for 25 to 55 years.
- Current Status: Current smokers, and former smokers who quit 20 years ago or less
Please note that this web tool is produced by an entity other than the Lung Cancer Alliance and Lung Cancer Alliance is not responsible for its content.
INFORMATION ON SCREENING
If you exhibit one or more of the previous risk factors please consult with your physician about early detection options.
This is a lot of information, but it could mean life or death to you or a loved one. Please know the facts.
Please Quit Smoking - You CAN Do It! Really you can.