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NCCN Guidelines for Patients



Lung Cancer Screening, Version 1.2017


Are you at risk?

Risk factors for lung cancer

Risk factors for lung cancer

Some people are more likely to develop lung cancer

than others. Anything that increases your chances of

lung cancer is called a risk factor. Risk factors can be

activities that people do, things in the environment, or

traits passed down from parents to children through

genes. Genes are a set of coded instructions in cells

needed to make new cells and control how cells

behave. If one or more risk factors applies to you, it

doesn’t mean you’ll get lung cancer. Likewise, lung

cancer occurs in some people who have no known

risk factors. The known risk factors for lung cancer

are listed in

Guide 1


Tobacco smoking

Tobacco smoking is the major risk factor for lung

cancer. It accounts for 85 out of 100 people dying

from lung cancer. The link between smoking and lung

cancer was first reported in 1939, and since then

it has been firmly proven. Smoking also increases

the risk for cancer in many other areas of the body,

such as the bladder, esophagus, and head and neck.

Tobacco smoke has over 7000 chemicals, and more

than 50 of them are known to cause cancer. Any

smoking increases your risk for lung cancer, but the

more you smoke, the higher your risk. If you quit

smoking, your risk will decrease. However, the risk

for lung cancer is higher for former smokers than

people who never smoked. Thus, current or past

tobacco smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer.

Second-hand smoke

In 1981, a link between second-hand smoke and

lung cancer was first suggested. Since then, many

studies have found that second-hand smoke can

cause lung cancer in people who don’t smoke. The

more contact you have with second-hand smoke, the

higher your risk for lung cancer.


Uranium is a metallic chemical found in rocks and

soil. As it decays, radon is made and gets into the

air and water. Miners of uranium have a high risk for

developing lung cancer. Some studies of radon in the

home have linked radon to lung cancer while other

studies have not.

Guide 1. Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Tobacco smoking

Contact with second-hand smoke

Contact with radon

Contact with asbestos or other cancer-causing


History of other cancers

History of lung disease

Family history of lung cancer

What you can do:


If you smoke tobacco, ask your

doctor about support resources.


Learn about counseling or drugs

that might help you quit.


When you are ready to quit, reach

out to your family and friends for