Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States — for both men and women. But what causes lung cancer? World Lung Cancer Day is Aug. 1. While smoking is the primary contributing factor, many other environmental and lifestyle causes can lead to lung cancer.

What Causes Lung Cancer

Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer, both for those who smoke and those continually exposed to second-hand smoke. However, other factors can lead to lung cancer, including:

  • Radon Gas – High levels of radon can accumulate in buildings and homes. Install a radon detector if you don’t have one. The gas is produced by the breaking down of uranium in soil, rock, and water and becomes part of our air. While this is natural, the buildup of it and regular exposure can cause lung problems.
  • Asbestos – People who work near asbestos or other substances such as arsenic, chromium, and nickel, have an increased chance of developing lung cancer.
  • Family History – If you have a parent, child, or sibling who has or had lung cancer, your risk is higher.


There are different types of lung cancer, but in most cases, the disease will not cause symptoms until they have spread too far to be cured. Some of the symptoms of lung cancer include the following. See a doctor if you have one or more of these symptoms and feel concerned:

  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Chest pain
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Pain in your bones
  • Headaches
  • Coughing up blood
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back

Longtime smokers might consider getting a periodic lung cancer screening to detect problems as early as possible. Talk to your Generations Family doctor each year about your risk for lung and other cancers.