Lung cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and it’s a life-long commitment. Although you can’t guarantee that you won’t get it, there are things you can do at every stage of your life to reduce your risks of developing this devastating disease. Here are some lifestyle changes the whole family can incorporate that can help you reduce your risk of developing lung cancer.
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, with almost 90% of lung cancer deaths being caused by smoking cigarettes. The carcinogens found in cigarettes stick to the DNA in our cells and damage them.
Your risk for developing lung cancer depends on how often and how long you smoke. The more cigarettes you smoke in a day, the higher your risk. This is multiplied if you smoke for many years. Your body immediately starts repairing itself once you stop smoking, so it’s never too late to quit. You’ll also be showing a good example for your children and anyone else in your household.
Today’s children are still smoking. Children are still the target customers for tobacco companies, and new products like flavored vapes, e-cigarettes, and hookahs have captured their attention. Start talking to your children early about the dangers of smoking and continue the conversation throughout their lifetime. Prepare them for any peer pressure they may face as they get older and practice with them ways to say no.
You should also avoid smoking in front of your child or letting other people smoke around them. Aside from setting a bad example, secondhand smoke can also increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer. Declare your home as a smoke-free zone.
Avoid Carcinogens In The Workplace
Certain jobs can regularly expose workers to carcinogens. One of the most common workplace occupational hazards is crystalline silica. It’s a naturally occurring material that is commonly found on construction sites. Approximately 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica regularly, leading to hundreds of silica-caused deaths each year.
When silica is disturbed—through processes like demolishing, grinding, or breaking down silica-containing materials—it pollutes the air with silica dust. Inhalation of even small amounts of this dust can lead to serious breathing problems such as silicosis, tuberculosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
If you work with any of the following materials, you may be at risk of silica exposure:
Another naturally occurring mineral that is just as dangerous as silica is asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral commonly used in insulation in buildings and cars. Like silica, asbestos is relatively harmless if left undisturbed. However, once asbestos dust gets in the air, the jagged fibers can lodge themselves into tissue in the body.
High levels of asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma—a type of cancer with a poor prognosis and low survival rate. Your risk for asbestos exposure is high if you work any of these professions:
- Construction workers
- Auto and aircraft mechanics
- HVAC Workers
If you work in any of these fields, be sure to follow all safety precautions to keep your lungs healthy. This includes wearing issued masks, wearing appropriate work gear and working in well-ventilated areas when possible.
Although most children don’t have high-risk professions, their schools can also be a potential place to come in contact with carcinogens. As of 2018, it is estimated that one-third of schools still contained asbestos in the United States. This puts students and teachers at risk of developing asbestos-related lung cancer. If your child goes to school in a building that was built before 1980, reach out to the administration to see their asbestos-abatement plan.
Monitor Your Indoor Air Quality
Your home may also be a culprit of cancer-causing chemicals. These toxins either increase your risk or directly lead to cancer. An example of this is radon gas. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil underground. We’re always surrounded by it; however, it can seep into your home and become concentrated in dangerous amounts.
Exposure to radon can be extremely harmful to your lungs. The radiation damages the DNA, making it difficult for cells to function normally. Radon exposure is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the number two cause of lung cancer overall.
Children are about 10x more susceptible to the dangers of radon poisoning. Their lungs are smaller and underdeveloped, and they breathe at a faster rate than adults. Their bodies are also smaller than adults. Put that all together, and children are most at risk of developing health effects in the future.
Homeowners should have their homes tested for radon in order to ensure levels are safe. You could also install a radon-reduction system. Natural ventilation can also be an effective way to lower your home’s radon levels. Opening windows and turning on fans will circulate the air and can reduce the concentration of radon gas in your house.
If you’re renting your home, you can ask your landlord to test your radon levels for you. You could also buy the test yourself. If you’re concerned about your exposure levels, you can ask your doctor about your risks of developing lung cancer. There’s no way of testing your individual radon exposure, so frequent lung cancer screenings may be needed to make sure that you’re healthy.
Eat a Healthy Diet & Exercise
Diet and physical activity also play a significant role in your chances of developing lung cancer. While there is no specific diet that has proven to reduce your risk of cancer, a recent study showed that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can decrease your risk of developing lung cancer by up to 5%.
Physical activity is an even stronger habit that can prevent lung cancer. This doesn’t necessarily require you to spend hours at the gym or run a mile each morning. Studies have shown that getting moderate movement can reduce your risk of developing cancer by up to 30%, with the benefits getting higher the more that you move. It’s suspected that this is because exercising reduces inflammation around the body, helps you breathe out toxins, increases your immune system and helps your body repair damaged DNA.
Here is a list of simple activities that the family can do together to decrease your risks of lung cancer:
- Go for a walk
- Plant a garden
- Do chores around the house
- Play with the dog
By consistently finding ways to incorporate movement and healthy foods into your daily routine, you could save yourself and your family from future health complications.
Things That Won’t Reduce Your Risks
There are many sources on the internet that will try to sell you magic techniques that reduce your risk factors for lung cancer. It’s important to be able to differentiate the truth from the myths. Here are a few things you may come across that do not prevent lung cancer
Beta-carotene supplements: There’s a lot of hype around antioxidants being the magic vitamin for reducing your risk of cancer. This includes beta-carotene, a common antioxidant in yellow, orange and red foods. However, studies have shown that beta-carotene supplements actually increased the risk of lung cancer—specifically for people who smoke.
Keto diet: There is no evidence that supports any specific diet or foods that are successful at preventing lung cancer. The keto diet is no exception. Although many sources claim that the keto diet can reduce cancer because of its effects on weight loss— which is a known risk factor. However, no major cancer groups recommend the keto diet for cancer prevention or treatment.
Your state of mind: Your brain is a powerful tool that is capable of many things. But it’s not capable of preventing cancer through will alone. A recent email was circulating that made promises that a stable state of mind was able to stop cancer from occurring in the body. However, there is no evidence that proves this to be true.
Any claim that offers an “easy remedy” or “sure way” to prevent lung cancer should be looked at with a skeptical eye. The best thing that you can do to reduce you and your family’s risk of developing this disease is to steer clear of known carcinogens and try to live a healthy lifestyle. Lung Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to brush up on what will and won’t keep cancer out of your future and is the perfect opportunity to pass the information along to your family.