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Lung Cancer Prevention and Screening

Know the risk factors for lung cancer

A smiling mature man having coffee with a friend represents the importance of lung cancer screening and prevention.

Know the risk factors for lung cancer

Lung cancers caused by smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke may be prevented by not smoking or by avoiding secondhand smoke.

But not all lung cancers are related to smoking. Some people who have the disease have none of the known lung cancer risk factors, so researchers don’t know if these can be prevented.

Continue reading to learn about known lung cancer risks and how to reduce your chances of getting the disease.

Causes, risks and family history

Lung cancer kills more men and women in the United States than any other type of cancer. Not all lung cancer causes are known, but Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center encourages you to learn about potential causes and take steps to reduce known risk factors.

Lung cancer prevention

There is no known way to completely prevent lung cancer, but you can help protect your lungs by reducing your risk factors and increasing protective factors. If you have a personal or family history of lung cancer, ask your doctor about how to lower your risk.

Benefits of early detection

When lung cancer is found early, the likelihood of successful treatment may be greater. Found early, lung cancer has a significantly higher cure rate. But because lung cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms until it has spread — or symptoms are mistaken for a viral infection or “smoker’s cough” — it can be difficult to detect. Only 16% of lung cancer cases are found at an early stage.

Preventive screening

Preventive screening for lung cancer is recommended only for people who are at high risk of developing the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, you may be a candidate for preventive lung cancer screening if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • 55 to 74 years old
  • Are healthy enough for surgery or other lung cancer treatment if needed
  • Have a 30 pack-year smoking history (for example, one pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years).
  • Are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the past 15 years

If you meet all of these criteria, talk with your physician about annual screening for lung cancer detection. Screening is recommended every year using a low-dose computed tomography (CT), a form of X-ray imaging that captures images of the body from different angles. The images are combined to create detailed cross-sectional views of organs, bones and blood vessels.