Posted by Divya Sathyanarayanan

Every year, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer, which is a deadly form of cancer causing more deaths each year than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined*. Dr. PJ Benyamini, General Surgeon at CHA HPMC, explains why lung cancer is deadly and ways to lower the risk of developing this type of cancer.

What is the type of cancer that is most likely to be fatal and why?
There are many types of cancer that have a poor prognosis and can be fatal. One of the more common cancers to be fatal is Lung cancer. In 2020, the second most common cancer (in terms of new cases of cancer) was Lung cancer with near 2.21 million new cases and the most common cause of cancer death was Lung cancer with 1.8 million deaths worldwide. Lung cancer is an aggressive form of cancer that can spread rapidly.

What causes lung cancer?
Cigarette Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. In the United States, cigarette smoking is linked to about 80-90% of lung cancer deaths. Using other tobacco products such as cigars or pipes also increases the risk for lung cancer. People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer. The more years a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more risk goes up. Other known causes include Radon exposure, asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust, and some forms of silica and chromium. Scientists are studying many different foods and dietary supplements to see where they change the risk of getting lung cancer. Currently more research is needed in this field but what we do know is that smokers who take beta-carotene supplements have an increased risk for lung cancer.

Does lung cancer affect a particular demographic or gender more than others?
Lung cancer can affect anyone but more often occurs in older people. Men have a slightly higher lifetime risk of developing lung cancer than women.

What lifestyle choices/changes are most important to undertake to lower the risk of developing this type of cancer?
The best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is not to smoke or avoid second hand smoke when possible. 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. Furthermore, avoiding Radon exposure in your home is important as well as avoiding known cancer-causing agents. A healthy diet and lifestyle may also help reduce your risk of lung cancer.
*Source: Global Cancer Observatory. Retrieved from
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