Causes, Risk factors and Complications of Lung Cancer

The majority of lung cancers is caused by smoking. The risk involves both in smokers and in people exposed to secondhand smoke.

Updated: November 24, 2017

The majority of lung cancers is caused by smoking. The risk involves both in smokers and in people exposed to secondhand smoke. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the time over which smoking has occurred. Pipe and cigar smoking also can cause lung cancer, although the risk is not as high as with cigarette smoking.
The chemical compounds such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found in tobacco smoke are cancer-causing. As normal cells grow and replace damaged cells in the lung, the risk of developing lung cancer decreases each year following when you quit smoking. Some risk factors such as quitting smoking can be controlled.But other factors can not be controlled, such as your family history.

Causes and Risk factors of Lung Cancer:

Passive smoking:

Passive smoking or the inhalation of tobacco smoke by nonsmokers who share living or working with smokers, also have risk factor for the development of lung cancer. The risk appears to increase with the degree of exposure which is the number of years exposed and number of cigarettes smoked by the household partner.

Exposure to asbestos fibers:

Exposure to asbestos can persist for a lifetime in lung tissue. The workplace is a common source of exposure to asbestos fibers. Cigarette smoking drastically increases the chance of developing an asbestos-related lung cancer in workers exposed to asbestos.

Exposure to radon gas:

Radon gas is a natural radioactive gas that is produced by a natural breakdown of uranium that emits a type of ionizing radiation. Radon gas can travel up through soil and enter homes through gaps in the foundation, pipes, drains, or other openings which eventually becomes part of the air you breathe.

Family history of lung cancer:

People with a parent, sibling or child with lung cancer have an increased risk of the disease.

Lung diseases:

The presence of certain diseases of the lung such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis is associated with an increased risk for the development of lung cancer.

Prior history of lung cancer:

The person who have survived from lung cancer have a greater risk of developing it for the second time.

Air pollution:

Air pollution from vehicles, industry, and power plants can raise the risk of developing lung cancer. Prolonged exposure to highly polluted air can carry a risk for the development of lung cancer similar to that of passive smoking.

Exposure to diesel exhaust:

Workers exposed to diesel exhaust have shown a small but significant increase in the risk of developing lung cancer as the exhaust from diesel engines is made up of gases and soot which could be a reason.

Complications of Lung Cancer:

Lung cancer can cause complications, such as:

Shortness of breath:

If cancer grows to block the major airways, people with lung cancer can experience shortness of breath. Lung cancer can also cause fluid to accumulate around the lungs. Because of this it harder for the affected lung to expand fully when you inhale.

Coughing up blood:

Lung cancer can cause bleeding in the airway, which can cause you to cough up blood. This is known as hemoptysis which can be severe sometime.


Advanced lung cancer that spreads to the lining of a lung or to another area of the body, such as a bone, can cause pain. Initially pain may be mild and intermittent, but can become constant overtime. Medications, radiation therapy and other treatments may help make you more comfortable.

Pleural effusion:

Fluid can accumulate in pleural space, the space that surrounds the affected lung in the chest cavity because of lung cancer. Fluid accumulating in the chest can cause shortness of breath. Treatments are available to drain the fluid from your chest and reduce the risk of developing pleural effusion again.


Lung cancer often spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body, such as the brain and the bones. Cancer that spreads can cause pain, nausea, headaches, or other signs and symptoms depending on what organ is affected. Once lung cancer has spread to other organs, it is generally not curable. Treatments are available to reduce signs and symptoms and to help you live longer.

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