Lung cancer does not get the same crusading profile as breast and prostate cancer, yet according to the American Cancer Society, it causes more deaths than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined.

Women and Lung Cancer

Although lung cancer is on the decline in men, lung cancer in women is on the increase, both in the numbers of cases diagnosed and the number of lives it claims. In almost 50% of cases, it occurs in women under the age of 50. Some studies suggest that women may be more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarettes as they tend to develop lung cancer after fewer years of smoking than men.

There is some indication that estrogen may play a role in the association between women and lung cancer. Statistics suggest that the use of both birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may lower the risk of lung cancer in women, suggesting that estrogen may provide protection in some cases. However, treatment with estrogen and progesterone HRT after menopause appears to increase the risk of death from lung cancer.

Although women with lung cancer historically respond better than men to chemotherapy and surgery, the survival rate for lung cancer in women is still grim. The overall survival rate five years after diagnosis is just 16%.

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People with the Highest Lung Cancer Risk

Statistics show that African Americans are more likely than other ethnicities to develop and die from lung cancer, even though they have lower smoking rates.

Age also does not appear to be a barrier to lung cancer risk. Although the disease is most frequently diagnosed in people aged over 55, it can tragically strike people in their 20s and 30s.

Nonsmokers and Lung Cancer

Although lung cancer risk is directly associated with smoking, non-smokers can get lung cancer too. One in 10 cases of lung cancer (around 24,000 cases a year) is diagnosed in people who never smoked. This may be due to genetic predisposition, inhaling smoke involuntarily from tobacco smoked by others, by environmental and occupational exposure to carcinogens, or it may be caused by exposure to radon in the home.

Reducing Your Risk of Lung Cancer

With such a high risk of death from lung cancer, smokers need to seek help to quit right away. Not only will you be reducing your own risk of lung cancer, you will be protecting non-smoking family, friends and work associates too.

Non-smokers should avoid secondhand smoke, eat a healthy diet high in antioxidants, exercise regularly and get your home tested for radon to reduce the risk of lung cancer.