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Lung cancer experts at Johns Hopkins note that lung cancer prevention is important for everyone, including those who have been successfully treated for lung cancer and heavy smokers who are at risk for developing the disease.
It’s critical for people who have had lung cancer and those at high risk to take every possible step they can to prevent the disease. Approximately one third of all stage 1 lung cancers will recur and some will be lethal recurrences.
How can I prevent lung cancer?
Don’t start smoking. There are a number of steps anyone can take to reduce the risk of getting lung cancer but the number one most effective way to prevent lung cancer is to never smoke.
If you are a smoker, stop. Even for smokers who have been treated for lung cancer, stopping lowers the risk of developing new lung cancers. How much a smoker can lower his or her risk depends on how long the person has been smoking, how much the person smoked, and the length of time since quitting. The longer it has been since a person smoked, the lower the risk of developing lung cancer becomes.
If you are a smoker, the use of nicotine replacement products, counseling, and antidepressant therapy may help you quit.
Get screened. The recent results of the National Lung Screening Trial, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, show that low-dose screening with helical CT scans, done three times a year, decreases the number of deaths due to lung cancer by 20 percent. While screening does include finding false positives (finding something that is not lung cancer), possibly necessitating further diagnostic procedures, this study illustrates the life-saving role that screening can play in detecting lung cancer at stages that can be life-saving.
Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Make your home and workplace smoke-free.
Avoid exposure to cancer-causing substances. Homes and offices may harbor chemicals or other substances that increase the risk of cancer for those who live or work in them. The biggest culprit is radon. The risk rises for people who smoke and are exposed to radon.
Testing is fairly simple to do, either by using a do-it-yourself radon test kit or by hiring a qualified tester. The Environmental Protection Agency lists where to find radon information in your area.
Stay informed about occupational hazards. Exposure to asbestos is known to cause mesothelioma. Other toxins, such as arsenic, nickel, and chromium, can also increase the risk of developing lung cancer, particularly for people who smoke.
Live healthily. While there is not a direct link that ties eating a healthy diet and getting exercise to decreasing the risk of lung cancer, some studies suggest it may be a good idea to include a healthy lifestyle as part of your cancer prevention efforts.
Make sure your prevention efforts are based on evidence. While many have promoted vitamins and vitamin-like drugs to reduce the risk of lung cancer in current and former smokers, there is no evidence that this works. In fact, the use of beta carotene, a nutrient related to vitamin A, appears to increase the risk of lung cancer for former and current smokers, according to some studies.
For an appointment and answers to your questions
As a leading treatment center for lung cancer, Johns Hopkins offers its patients personalized care, specialized treatment, and pioneering therapies to extend life.
To make an appointment or if you have questions, call 410-955-LUNG (5864).