Although lung cancer is the top leading cause of cancer death and also one of common cancers in many countries, the exact cause of the disease is not fully understood yet. So far, cigarette smoking is the leading risk factor. Family history of the same disease also has an effect on the risk. But is this cancer really hereditary?
Again, smoking is the major risk factor. It causes the majority of the disease, either in smokers or non-smokers (such as those with high exposure to secondhand smoke).
How does smoking trigger lung cancer?
Experts believe that smoke of tobacco can trigger the disease by damaging cells in the lungs. It hosts numerous different toxic chemicals (including carcinogens ‘cancer-causing substances’). The risk of having changes in the lung tissue increases each time you inhale tobacco smoke.
At first, the damage caused by smoking is able to be repaired by your body. But afterward, each repeated exposure can be more serious in causing damage to cells in your lung. Over time, these cells will act abnormally which then eventually may turn into cancer cells.
Lung cancer has many types
There are many types of the disease. But in general, the disease is grouped into two categories; non-small cell and small cell lung cancers. Non-small cell type is the most common form of the disease. It occurs in both smokers and non-smokers. And it has several subtypes!
Small cell type is commonly found in smokers. It’s very rare in non-smokers. We can say that it is exclusive form of lung cancer in smokers.
If you have this cancer, it’s crucial for your doctor to clearly diagnose the type of lung cancer that you have. Because this can affect the way of how your treatment plan should ago. See more about types of lung cancer in this section!
Smoking is not the only one (other factors can affect your risk)!
Interestingly, sometime the disease can occur in ‘pure’ non-smokers (those who never had prolonged exposure to smoke of tobacco (secondhand smoke)). For such case, the cause is more difficult to understand – other factors may have a role.
So though smoking is the major contributing risk factor for the disease, experts believe that there are also other risk factors that can increase the risk. These include:
- Exposure to radon gas.
- Exposure to other carcinogens in the environment such as arsenic, asbestos, silica, and so on.
- Previous cancer treatments.
- A family history of the same condition.
- A personal history of the same condition.
- A personal history of other cancers linked to smoking such as esophagus cancer and cervix cancer.
- Poor function of the body immune system. For more detailed information about these risk factors, see also his post!
Hereditary factor can be one of risk factors for lung cancer. If you have a family member with this cancer, you are at higher risk than others to develop the same condition.
In fact, it is quite common to find patients of lung cancer with a family history of the same condition. But does this hereditary factor have a significant effect in causing the disease?
After smoking, genetic trait may be one of the most contributing factors to help trigger the occurrence of this cancer.
Even there is estimation that the family history increases the risk by about 50 percent, particularly for those who have a first degree relative with the disease. Interestingly, the increased risk may be higher if your sister or brother has the disease, rather than your parent.