Reduce your lung cancer risk

Reduce your lung cancer risk
By Dr. Wayne Kye

We’ve come a long way in the battle against lung cancer. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but fewer and fewer Americans are smoking and disease rates are declining.

Still, lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death in both men and women, claiming more lives each year than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and provides a reminder that we have more to do to prevent lung cancer.

About 220,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. each year, and more than 155,000 die of the disease each year. In New York state alone, the statistics are staggering. An estimated 12,700 will be diagnosed and 8,660 will die of lung cancer this year.

The best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to never smoke, or if you do smoke, quit. Smoking is responsible for about 80 percent of lung cancer cases in the U.S. In addition to cigarettes, smoking cigars, pipes, hookah or other tobacco products is also harmful.

The effects of e-cigarettes on cancer risk are not yet known, so they should not be considered a safe alternative or cessation tool until more research is done.

Although smoking is the main risk factor for lung cancer, secondhand smoke, exposure to radon gas, or occupational exposure to certain toxic substances or radiation may also increase your risk.

Early detection can prolong survival, but lung cancer symptoms, including a persistent cough, constant chest pain, hoarseness lasting a long time or shortness of breath, don’t usually occur until the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage.

With the advent of low-dose spiral CT screening, we can detect lung cancer at earlier stages and reduce lung cancer deaths by at least 20 percent. Talk to a health care professional about the pros and cons of screening if you are or were a long-time smoker.

Quitting smoking is not easy due to the highly addictive nicotine found in cigarettes. As an oral healthcare professional, tobacco counseling and cessation programs are an integral part of my patient’s treatment plan.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration announced plans to implement new standards to reduce the level of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, but changes will take time.

A health care professional can connect you to resources to help you quit. Visit www.preventcancer.org/lungcancer to learn more.

Dr. Wayne Kye


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