The crazy thing about lung cancer is that the vast majority of these diagnoses can be prevented.
Most are related to smoking (or secondhand smoke), or less often from exposure to radon or other environmental factors.
Of course, some lung cancers occur in people without any known risk factors and it’s not yet clear if these cancers can be prevented.
The bottom line here is that if you smoke, you really should quit. About 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are thought to be the direct result of smoking. The longer you smoke and the more you smoke, the greater your risk. Simple.
If you’re a non-smoker spending significant time around secondhand smoke, the news is bad for you too – it’s thought to cause more than 7,000 deaths from lung cancer each year.
While smoking rates have declined in the city, Staten Island is still reporting the highest in all of the boroughs, with 17.4 percent of residents smoking versus 14.3 percent city wide.
Youth smoking rates are also higher on Staten Island, notes Health and Wellness Director Ginny Mantello, M.D. “It’s important to start early with education and awareness, especially since smoking is an addiction and a gateway - like alcohol - to youth experimenting with other substances later in life,” she said.
City wide, it’s reported that 15,000 public high school students currently smoke cigarettes, a third of whom are predicted to die prematurely as a direct result of smoking. If that’s not grim enough, more than 200,000 children are still exposed to secondhand smoke at home, an unacceptably high number.
While smoking is to blame for most lung cancers, some other risk factors include exposure to Radon, asbestos, and other carcinogens (most likely found in certain kinds of work environments), previous radiation therapy to chest, and other situations.
However, there’s a conversation to be had with your doctor to determine who needs to be screened for lung cancer. Over-screening can be dangerous as there are levels of radiation in the screening.
“Only in recent years has a study shown that a test known as a low-dose CT scan can help lower the risk of dying from this disease,” Dr. Mantello noted.
To determine if you should be screened for the disease, be prepared to review these criteria with your primary care doctor:
- Are you 55 to 74 years old?
- Are you in fairly good health and able to tolerate surgery if needed?
- Do you have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history?
- Are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
If you’re still reading this, here’s a quick guide to reducing your risk:
• Don’t smoke.
• Avoid secondhand smoke.
• Get your home tested for radon.
• Be careful at work. Health and safety guidelines in the workplace can help workers avoid carcinogens.