Prevention is the best cure possible. It is an action taken before disease to reduce our risk, in this case, of getting lung cancer. Cancer prevention reduces the death toll and the complications of the disease. One way to do it would be recognizing the risk factors and changing our predisposition. Another way would be finding protective factors and adopting them to reduce the risk.
Lung cancer is very dangerous because the lungs are in contact with a large volume of blood. Thus, the chance of metastasis is very high, especially in small cell lung cancer. Therefore, instead of solving the problem when it shows up, it is wise to reduce the risk of this leading cause of death worldwide.
In this article, we’re going through quick facts about lung cancer prevention. We’ll cover risk factors and how to make changes in them. We’ll also cover additional steps you can take to reduce your risk of lung cancer.
Changing Your Modifiable Risk Factors
Risk factors divide into modifiable and non-modifiable. You can change the former, but you can do nothing about the latter. The first step to prevent lung cancer is to avoid the modifiable risk factors or change your habits to protect you instead of putting you at risk.
These recommendations will help you identify and change your risk factors to avoid lung cancer:
- Stop smoking: Tobacco smoke is one of the leading causes of lung cancer. Most cases of aggressive small cell lung cancer had a history of smoking heavily or for many years. The best way to prevent this disease is simply to stop smoking. This applies to patients with active or past lung cancer, too. To stop smoking, patients can use nicotine replacement products and go through the withdrawal period with antidepressants and anxiolytics. If you need help to quit smoking, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor. The risk will not be reduced immediately. Instead, it will start declining gradually, and in 10 years no smoking, you will have up to 60% lower chances of lung cancer.
- Be careful with secondhand smoke: This is one of the most common risk factors in patients who do not smoke. If they live in a household where people smoke heavily, they often smoke passively. Air filters and purifiers can reduce the risk of secondhand smoke in these cases by taking away the particles of smoke in your room despite living in a house of smokers.
- Report to your doctor if you have a family history: Family history is important, especially if your close relatives have lung cancer at a young age. People with lung cancer usually smoke and have genetics and habits in common with you. Thus, your risk could be invertedly higher as compared to the average. It is wise to share this data with your doctor if he didn’t ask you before. This way, he will decide when to start screening you for lung cancer according to your risks.
- Avoid radiation and radon sources: Radiation and radon are both causes of lung cancer. You don’t need to reject getting X-rays or an MRI because these diagnostic tests are not associated with high cancer risk. If they were, they would not be used in medicine. They are only dangerous if you work in a hospital’s imaging department and receive these radiations all day without protecting yourself. Radon exposure is more pervasive in our daily lives, and we can be exposed to this natural radioactive gas without even realizing it because it doesn’t smell or look any different. You can measure radon levels in your house, workplace, and other places where you’re currently passing your time.
- Consider your workplace risk: Companies should assess workplace risks to reduce the incidence of cancer and other diseases. If you work with substances such as chromium, asbestos, nickel, and arsenic, you need to use your full protection.
- Use supplements wisely: Not all supplements are harmless, and you need to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements. Lung cancer is an example because who would say that an antioxidant can speed up cancer? But that is what happens with vitamin A in smokers. Taking vitamin A supplements and smoking heavily is a terrible idea. The supplement can increase your risk of lung cancer instead of lowering it down. This trend is only found in active smokers. Non-smokers won’t increase their risk of lung cancer with vitamin A.
Additional Steps To Take
The recommendations above are beneficial to identify and change the most important modifiable risk factors. You can also consider these recommendations to lower the risk further:
- Follow a healthier diet: There is evidence that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of all types of cancer, including lung cancer. Many doctors recommend a healthy and varied diet to reduce the risk of this and many other ailments. However, the diet changes according to our culture, and it is a bit difficult to control the settings, so the evidence presented so far is often not enough.
- Increase your physical activity levels: A sedentary behavior is known to increase the risk of lung cancer, and studies show that living a more active life can lower the risk. The recommendation is to increase your physical activity levels with a minimum goal of 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week.
- Be in contact with your doctor: It is also essential to stay in touch with your doctor and inform if you start having respiratory symptoms. There is also secondary prevention which reduces the risk of complications in patients who already have a disease. If you detect cancer early in the course of the disease, the life expectancy will be much higher, and your doctor will have more time and resources to help you.
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Schachter, E. N., & Neuman, T. (2007). Targeted therapies for the prevention of lung cancer. Drugs of Today, 43(12), 897-936.