Other Causes Of Lung Cancer
A gaseous decay product of radium-226 and uranium-238, radon can damage the respiratory epithelium (the cells that line the lungs) through alpha particle emissions (a form of radiation). Uranium miners face an increased risk of lung cancer, probably due to radon radiation. Many armed forces members came into contact with depleted uranium and radon during military service, as did employees of defense contractors. See our pages on radon as a cause of lung cancer and uranium as a cause of lung cancer.
Secondhand Smoke (SHS)
Also referred to as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), secondhand smoke has been identified as a significant risk factor for lung cancer in people who have never smoked. According to the American Cancer Society, up to 20% of lung cancer cases among never-smokers are associated with ETS.
More on secondhand smoke as a cause of lung cancer.
Asbestos is a known cause of several types of cancer, including lung cancer. The asbestos fibers can become airborne and get into your lungs. Often, lung cancer (or even mesothelioma) doesn’t show up until decades after your asbestos exposure. If you have lung cancer and were exposed to asbestos, even decades ago, you may be eligible for compensation. Click here to learn more.
Studies have shown a synergistic relationship between asbestos and tobacco smoke in the causation of lung cancer. The studies found that in approximately a third of the lung cancer cases where smokers had asbestos exposure, the lung cancer was attributable to the “synergy” of the two working together rather than either individual carcinogen.
The combination of tobacco and asbestos exposure has been proven to cause lung cancer much more frequently than either smoking or asbestos on its own. In fact, when a smoker is exposed to asbestos fibers, his or her risk of lung cancer increases 50-fold.
Agent Orange was a mixture of plant-killing chemicals (herbicides) sprayed from airplanes during the Vietnam War that became airborne and entered the lungs of ground troops. The Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged that Agent Orange is carcinogenic and provides benefits for qualified cancer patients with a history of exposure. See our page on Agent Orange as a cause of lung cancer.
Environmental exposures that damage DNA can also result in lung cancer. These exposures may include:
- Heavy metals, such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and chromium. Heavy metals are in many products and waste streams. Due to health concerns, the United States lowered permissible arsenic levels in drinking water several years ago.
- Radioactive elements like uranium, which occur in water, soil, or mineral deposits.
- Hydrocarbon substances such as motor oil, gasoline, diesel exhaust, mineral spirits, kerosene, paints, rubber cement, dry cleaning chemicals, and solvents. Exposure to a specific class of hydrocarbons called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may increase lung cancer incidence.