November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, an important time of year for raising awareness of lung cancer and its many preventable causes. Lung cancer is the UK’s second most common form of cancer, and while rates are beginning to fall and are expected to continue to fall – there is still more to be done to reduce the number of cases that could have otherwise been avoided.
Lung cancer in the UK
According to the most recent statistics published by Cancer Research UK, there were 46,403 new cases of lung cancer in the UK, accounting for around 13% of the total number of cancers. It can take a while for symptoms of lung cancer to develop, often meaning people are in the more advanced stages of lung cancer when they begin treatment.
Causes of lung cancer
The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking, and there have been active campaigns for decades to try and help smokers quit to reduce their risk of contracting lung cancer in the future. However, there are other causes of lung cancer that you should be aware of, as being a non-smoker doesn’t mean that you aren’t at risk of contracting the disease.
Non-smokers are of course at risk of second-hand smoke, but there are other risk factors that you need to be mindful of. Radon is a type of radioactive gas that is present in soil and can cause lung cancer as the result of high exposure. You can find out more about radon with UKRadon, who can tell you whether you live in a radon-affected area and what you can do to limit your exposure.
Asbestos poisoning is another potential cause of lung cancer. Asbestos used to be used in insulations materials and if inhaled, could lead to lung cancer. Those who have been exposed to asbestos who have also smoked are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer, while asbestos workers are at the biggest risk. The use of asbestos is banned in the UK since 1999, much sooner than many European countries. If you have worked in an asbestos-containing environment, particularly the shipbuilding industry, you should make an appointment with your GP if you have any concerns.
Air pollution is another risk factor for lung cancer, with the pollution that comes from vehicles, energy plants and industrial works having a potential effect on your lung health – much in the same way as second-hand smoking.
Improving your lung health for Lung Cancer Awareness Month
To help reduce your risk of developing lung cancer, it’s important that you take steps to look after your lung health. If you’re a smoker, then quitting smoking is the first thing you should do to help you reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. NHS Choices have a wide range of resources to help you quit smoking for good, while there are other local services available in East Berkshire.
Other things you can do to improve your lung health include:
Limit your exposure to pollution
Pollution can be hard to avoid when you live and work within a large city, but you should try to avoid polluted areas as much as possible. You can also do your bit to help others avoid pollution by adopting greener practices at home and work. Reducing how much you use your car, your energy consumption as well as food waste can all help reduce the effects of pollution and contribute to a healthier society.
Looking after your cardiovascular health is important for your overall health, not just to guard against lung cancer. Physical activity guidelines for adults state that you should do aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, which can include walking, running and other exercises that get your heart and lungs working. As you develop your fitness, you’ll notice that you are able to exercise for longer and at more intense periods as your lungs become stronger.
With the majority of lung cancer cases being preventable, it’s important that you take steps to look after your health and do what you can to reduce your risk of getting lung cancer. For more information about lung cancer, its causes and symptoms, visit the NHS Choices website.