Lung Cancer Causes

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 1 April 2021

Table of contents
  1. What causes lung cancer?

What Causes Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers all over the world. When the cells in your lungs mutate or change, this occurs. The most common cause of these mutations occurs when you inhale toxic substances. Lung cancer may develop years after inhaling these toxic gases.

Lung cancer may be caused by a number of factors.

Cigarette smoke. Lung cancer is caused by smoking in 90% of cases. It has also been linked to more than a dozen other cancers. Cigarettes contain about 250 harmful chemicals, 69 of which are cancer-causing (carcinogenic). It makes no difference how much you smoke. Lung cancer is a risk even if you only smoke one cigarette per day.

It isn’t just a danger for the smoker. This disease is often believed to also be caused by secondhand smoke, which is smoke inhaled from a lit cigarette or by a smoker. If those who don’t smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke at work or at home, they have a 20% to 30% higher risk of lung cancer.

If you stop smoking, the risk of lung disease decreases. And if you have cancer, quitting smoking reduces the chances of dying from it by 30% to 40%. It speeds up the recovery process and reduces the risk of cancer recurrence.

Vapes. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are another name for them. Nicotine, flavouring agents, and other harmful compounds are all present in the liquids used in vapes. They’re harmful to the lungs’ cells.

We don’t know whether vaping triggers lung cancer quite yet. E-cigarette vapour does produce chemicals that are believed to cause cancer, albeit in far lower amounts than smoking. If you vape, you risk becoming addicted to nicotine and then starting to smoke cigarettes.

Marijuana. It’s uncertain if weed causes lung cancer. It is possible that those who do it will also smoke cigarettes. As a result, it’s difficult to determine if it develops lung cancer on its own.

It makes a difference how you use weed. The majority of people smoke it. It’s also used in foods, beverages, pills, and other products. Toxins found in marijuana smoke are similar to those found in cigarette smoke. This increases the chances of developing respiratory problems including bronchitis. It also has the potential to disrupt your immune system. As opposed to smoke, you inhale it more deeply. This will deposit four times the amount of tar in your lungs as tobacco.

More analysis is needed to determine if it causes lung cancer. Some research suggests that marijuana’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) may have protective properties against cancer.

Radon. This gas is invisible, odourless, and tasteless. It releases radiation which can be found in soil and rocks. Radon enters homes, schools, and other facilities by minor foundation cracks. It infiltrates 1 of every 15 homes in the United States, resulting in about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. It is the second leading source of lung cancer, after smoking.

Testing your home for radon is easy and essential. You might get a positive result when your neighbour does not. A check is the best way to find out if you do. The kits are inexpensive, and you can get one from the local health department or buy one online.

Asbestos. This is a substance that has been linked to cancer among those who are exposed to it on a regular basis. Minerals present in dirt and rocks make up asbestos. It can be found in structures, houses, vehicles, and other products.

Asbestos breaks down into microfibres that you inhale when you work with it. These fibres get lodged in the lungs. Asbestos builds up in your lungs if you are exposed to it for a long period. This makes breathing difficult and can be harmful to your health. Mesothelioma is a disease that affects those who work around asbestos. It’s a form of cancer that affects the chest and stomach. Asbestos has also been related to cancers of the lungs, larynx, and ovary.

Particle pollution. In the air, there are tiny pieces of acids, chemicals, dust, and metals. Each particle is a fraction of the size of a grain of sand. When you breathe them in, they will get lodged in your lungs. It has been related to lung cancer.

There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer as a result of particle pollution:

  • Each day, pay attention to the air quality forecast.
  • When pollution levels are high, stay indoors.
  • At all times, avoid exercising along busy highways.

Genes. Families pass down genes from generation to generation. This involves mutant genes that prevent your cells from restoring defective DNA and those that prevent your body from removing cancer-causing chemicals.

If you or anyone in your family has had the disease, inform the doctor. You stand a higher chance of developing lung cancer if that is the case. Lung cancer is caused by a mutation that is transmitted from families in around 8% of cases.


Referenced on 1.4.2021

  1. American Lung Association: “Lung Cancer Causes & Risk Factors,” “Radon,” “The Connection between Lung Cancer and Outdoor Air Pollution,” “Marijuana and Lung Health,” “What Do We Know About E-Cigarettes?”
  2. National Cancer Institute: “Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting,” “Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk.”
  3. Tobacco Control: “Examining the relationship of vaping to smoking initiation among US youth and young adults: a reality check.”
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are marijuana’s effects on lung health?”
  5. United States Environmental Protection Agency: “How do I get a radon test kit? Are they free?”
  6. American Cancer Society: “Asbestos and Cancer Risk,” “What causes lung cancer?”
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Cannabinoids in cancer treatment: Therapeutic potential and legislation.”
  8. Oncology Letters: “Familial risk for lung cancer.”
  9. World Cancer Research Fund: “Worldwide cancer data.”

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