Risk Factors

Researchers have identified specific factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer. Scientists are learning more about what causes lung cancer and why some people develop the disease while others do not.

  • History of Smoking – For people who have smoked, the risk of developing lung cancer is related to their total lifetime exposure to cigarette smoke.


  • Secondhand Smoke – It is estimated that every year 3,000 people in the United States die of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke, for example living with someone who smokes or working in a location where smoking is or was allowed.

Everyone diagnosed, regardless of smoking status, is entitled to compassion and the best available treatment.


  • Age - Most people are older than 65 years when diagnosed with lung cancer


  • Environment - Exposure to high levels of certain natural gases and chemicals such as radon, uranium, arsenic, bischloromethyl ether, asbestos, chromium, nickel, soot, tar, and other substances can cause lung cancer. The risk is highest for those with years of exposure.


  • Family History – In some cases, genetics play a part in lung cancer. If your family has a history with lung cancer, it is important to talk to your doctor. 

Updated March 11, 2015