13 myths about lung cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2018 there were 218,520 new cases of lung cancer and 142,080 related deaths in the United States.

Globally, in 2020, lung cancer was the second most common cancer after breast cancer, with 2.21 million case. He was responsible for 1.8 million deaths.

Although widespread, lung cancer is often misunderstood. To help us uncover the truth, we enlisted the help of Dr. Fred R. Hirsch, Executive Director of the Center of Excellence in Thoracic Oncology at the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai, New York. He is also Joe Lowe and Louis Price Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

As Dr Hirsch explained to Medical News Today, “This is not correct, and unfortunately it is a very hurtful and stigmatized myth.”

According to the CDC, approximately 10-20% of people with lung cancer in the United States have never smoked or have smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.

Each year, approximately 7,300 deaths of lung cancer in non-smokers is due to second-hand smoke, reports the CDC, and another 2,900 are due to radon exposure.

“There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of lung cancer,” says Dr. Hirsch. “First and foremost, smoking prevention and smoking cessation. “

For anyone trying to quit smoking, here are some evidence-based tips to help you.

Dr Hirsch also described the importance of limiting exposure to second-hand smoke, sometimes referred to as passive smoking. According to the CDC:

“Non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30%. “

“Other smoking products are also considered a potential risk for developing lung cancer,” said Dr. Hirsch.

“Screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography in high-risk populations, such as people 50 years of age who have smoked one pack per day for 20 years or more, reduces lung cancer mortality by more than 20% . “

“Other risk factors include exposure to radon,” continued Dr Hirsch. “So measuring radon in your home is important. [In addition,] certain lifestyle behaviors are considered potential risk factors, and it is important to exercise and avoid obesity.

“No that’s not true.” Dr Hirsch confirmed. Even if more than half of people diagnosed with lung cancer are over 65, “More and more young people under 50 are getting lung cancer, especially women. “

There is good evidence that pollution from traffic increases the risk of lung cancer. For example, the authors of a meta-analysis who investigated this finding:

“Exposure to nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particles was positively associated with a risk of lung cancer. Occupational exposure to air pollution among professional drivers has dramatically increased the incidence and mortality of lung cancer.

However, comparisons between pollution and smoking are more difficult to make. “Living in polluted cities is a risk factor, but no one knows for sure if it’s worse than using tobacco products, and the combination could be even worse,” explained Dr Hirsch.

Simply put, according to Dr. Hirsch, “quitting smoking significantly reduces the risk of lung cancer.”

Besides lung cancer, stopping smoking also lowers the risk of developing a range of other diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis and Diabetes.

As the National Institute of Aging write:

“No matter how old you are or how long you’ve smoked, quitting smoking anytime improves your health. When you quit smoking, you are likely to add years to your life, to breathe easier, to have more energy, and to save money.

“We think cannabis is a risk factor,” explained Dr Hirsch, “but we need more long-term studies. Epidemiological evidence for an association between cannabis and lung cancer is limited and conflicting.

One of the difficulties in studying this association, he explained, is that people who smoke cannabis often also smoke tobacco. This makes it more difficult to separate the effects of each factor.

This is not true. In addition to the many benefits of quitting smoking, “people with lung cancer who quit smoking have a better prognosis,” Dr. Hirsch confirmed.

“No, lung cancer surgery does not spread lung cancer,” said Dr Hirsch MNT. He went on to explain why it is important to have surgery early and the steps taken to prevent it from spreading.

“Lung cancer surgery is advised in early stage lung cancer.” At this point, he explained, it can cure cancer.

“If a tumor is large or has a locoregional spread,” he continued, “adjuvant treatment, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy before surgery, will further reduce the risk of having cancer cells in the body. blood.”

Dr Hirsch added that clinical research has shown that this approach prolongs survival and reduces the risk of death.

According to Dr Hirsch, “talc has not been associated with a higher risk of lung cancer”.

He explained how this myth could have started:

“Some studies have shown a slightly higher risk in people involved in the extraction and processing of talc, but it is not clear if this is because of the mineral or other underground elements known to cause cancer. lung, such as radon radioactive gas. “

“Unfortunately, this is not always the case,” explained Dr Hirsch. “Lung cancer can be detected in completely asymptomatic cases or in individuals with mild respiratory symptoms. “

He explained that this is one of the reasons screening people at high risk for lung cancer is so important. He pointed out that even in non-smokers, screening may have a benefit, but studies have yet to confirm this.

“Studies on lung cancer screening in non-smokers are ongoing,” he said, reiterating that early detection of lung cancer increases survival rates.

Fortunately, this is also wrong. According to Dr. Hirsch, when healthcare professionals detect lung cancer at an early stage, it “has a cure rate of over 60%.”

He continued, “Even lung cancer diagnosed in a more advanced disease today has much better potential for long-term survival in certain situations. Therapeutic advances and outcomes for patients with advanced lung cancer with specific genetic mutations, which may be target through specific therapies, has been tremendous over the past decade.

“Because antioxidants play an important role in protecting our cells from DNA damage that could include carcinogenic mutations or other genomic abnormalities, several clinical studies have been done, but unfortunately most have not. failed to demonstrate conclusive protection against lung cancer in a clinical setting. Dr Hirsch told us.

“There are a few studies indicating that several dietary antioxidants, such as carotenoids and vitamin C, may protect against lung cancer, but the results overall are somewhat ambiguous. More specific studies in well-defined smoking populations are needed as well as studies on “dosages” of antioxidants. “

Smoking may be the most well-known risk factor for lung cancer, but it’s definitely not the only one. Other risk factors include a family history of lung cancer, exposure to air pollution, exposure to radon, exposure to asbestos, previous radiation to the chest, and chronic lung disease.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Manchester in the UK, Tim completely changed course to work in sales, marketing and analytics. Realizing that his heart really is in science and writing, he changed course once again and joined the team at Medical News Today as a news editor. Now News Editor, Tim leads a team of leading writers and editors who report on the latest medical research in peer-reviewed journals; he also writes a few articles himself. When he has the chance, he enjoys listening to the heaviest metal, watching the birds in his garden, thinking about dinosaurs and wrestling with his children.

You can follow Tim on Twitter.

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