NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Lung and bronchus cancer causes more deaths than any other type of cancer in New Mexico, according to the American Cancer Society. August 1 is World Lung Cancer Day. Here’s what you need to know to help keep yourself safe.
The American Cancer Society estimates that over 550 New Mexicans will die from lung and bronchus this year. They estimate that nearly four out of every 10,000 people in the state will experience lung cancer.
But, it’s not all bad news. Catching cancer early via screening has boosted the survival rate, according to the American Lung Association.
“Lung cancer screening is key to early diagnosis, and early diagnosis saves lives,” Victoria Byrd, the development director at the Lung Association in New Mexico, said in a news release. “One of the most impactful things we can do in New Mexico is to raise awareness about lifesaving lung cancer screening. Currently, only 2% of residents at high risk for lung cancer have received a low-dose CT [computer tomography] scan lung cancer screening.”
Getting screened is particularly important for people who have smoked and are between the ages of 50 and 80 years old. Recently, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force expanded the guidelines of who should get screened. To see if you should get screened, you can take a short online quiz on the American Lung Association’s website.
The screening process uses x-rays to build a detailed picture of your lungs. This can allow doctors to detect cancer. The earlier lung cancer is detected, the better the odds of survival. And the lung cancer survival rate has increased by over 30% in the past 10 years, according to the American Lung Association.
While not all lung cancers can be prevented, there are steps you can take to stay healthy, according to the American Cancer Society. That includes limiting your exposure to certain risk factors and eating a healthy diet.
What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. They estimate that around 80% of the deaths from lung cancer are a result of smoking.
The longer someone smokes, the greater their risk for lung cancer. And of course, more packs a day means more risk.
Cigarette smoking isn’t the only type of smoking that can cause cancer. Cigars and pipe smoking can also increase risk. And low-tar and menthol cigarettes are just as risky as regular cigarettes, according to the American Cancer Society.
The verdict is still out on whether or not smoking cannabis can lead to lung cancer. The American Cancer Society points out that research on the topic has been relatively thin because it’s been illegal in many jurisdictions. They also note more research is needed on any possible connection between E-cigarettes and cancer.
Secondhand smoke, or spending time around people smoking, can also lead to lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates secondhand smoke causes thousands of lung cancer deaths each year.
While it’s nowhere as common as smoking-related lung cancer, radon inhalation can cause cancer. Radon is an odorless, tasteless radioactive gas, which is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Radon occurs naturally from the breakdown of uranium. It can come from soil and rocks, which is why researchers sometimes study radon levels in caves.
Radon can also accumulate in homes. Basements, in particular, can collect radon in the United States. If you’re concerned about radon, you can use home test kits to check for gas.
Asbestos is a well-known mineral that can cause lung cancer. Made up of tiny fibers, asbestos has been used as a heat-resistant building material. But the material has been linked to cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
The most at-risk people are those that regularly work with asbestos, such as mining workers or shipbuilding workers. Older buildings may also contain asbestos.
Asbestos can lead to cancer via inhalation. So simply having asbestos building materials in your home presents a relatively low risk. But if you’re removing old materials, asbestos fibers can make their way into the air and end up in people’s lungs.
A range of other chemicals can also lead to an increased risk of lung cancer. These include arsenic, radioactive ores, and even diesel exhaust.
Some factors are out of our control. For example, some research suggests there may be a link between genetics and the likelihood of lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.