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Causes of Lung Cancer

Causes of lung cancer

There are various causes of lung cancer and these are briefly described below;


Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer, responsible for more than 80% of lung cancer cases.  Those that commenced smoking at a young age are more at risk of developing the disease.

Those people that do no smoke but breathe in somebody else’s cigarette smoke, passive smoking, have their risk of developing lung cancer slightly increased.


Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was often used in a variety of building industries.  Those who have had continuous or close contact with asbestos are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer, more so if they smoke.

Radon gas

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can pass through the soil into the foundations of buildings.  Radon gas can be found in the South West and the Peak District.  Highly concentrated exposure to radon can increase a persons’ risk of developing lung cancer.


Lung cancer usually is more common in older people, 80% of cases are diagnosed in those over 60 and rarely affects those under the age of 40.

Genetic risk

Although the risk is very small, people may be at an increased risk of developing lung cancer if a close relative has already had the disease.

Past cancer treatment

Those who have previously received treatment for cancer may have a slightly increased risk of developing lung cancer later in life.  People who have had radiotherapy to the chest area, again, have an increased risk, especially if they smoke.

However, it is important to note that the risk of developing lung cancer is outweighed by the benefits of the initial treatment.

Lowered immunity

Those who have a lowered immune system due to illnesses such as HIV or AIDS or who have to take immunosuppressant medication after an organ transplant have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Other causes

Contact with certain chemicals and substances, such as silica, uranium, chromium and nickel can cause lung cancer, however this is rare.

Air pollution has been suggested as a cause, but this is difficult to prove.

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