Lung cancer stands as the top cause of cancer deaths for both men and women, WebMD notes — and odds are good that you know someone who’s been diagnosed. The disease starts in the lungs, but it can then spread to other parts of the body if it goes untreated. And it becomes particularly deadly once it spreads.
It’s a scary disease, that’s for sure — but your best protection is having the right knowledge on who’s likely to get it and if you need to be concerned. Here are the most common myths you need to stop believing immediately, including one that smokers need to pay attention to (No. 8).
1. The number of new cases of lung cancer is declining
With more people than ever aware of the dangers of cigarettes, it seems as if lung cancer rates should be declining over time. Unfortunately, this is far from reality. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that while cancer deaths have been slowly improving since their data from 1999, the number of new lung cancer cases per year is on the rise.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, there will be around 234,030 new lung cancer cases and over 150,000 deaths.
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2. Your living space isn’t contributing to your lung cancer risk
Even if you clean your house regularly and live in a low-pollution area, your home could still be seriously hurting your lungs. The National Cancer Institute explains radon, a colorless and odorless gas, is actually quite common in households that aren’t well-ventilated. It can enter homes through cracks in the flooring, walls, or foundation. And if you inhale too much of it over time, the particles can damage lung cells and eventually lead to cancer.
Inhaling radon isn’t anywhere near as deadly as smoking, but even so, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.
Next: Smokers can still be doing other things to lower their risk.
3. If you smoke, there’s nothing you can do to lower your risk
There’s no doubt that quitting smoking is tough. And while it’s vital for your lung health to stop the habit, there are certainly other measures smokers can take to improving their odds of not developing the deadly disease.
The ACS recommends avoiding cancer-causing chemicals and radon exposure when possible. Also, your lifestyle is key. Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet and get up to 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise daily. This can make a world of difference in the long run.
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4. Air pollution is just as bad for your lungs as smoking
If you live in an urban environment, the health of your lungs has probably crossed your mind. And Verywell explains various studies have found that the incidence of lung cancer is generally higher in cities than it is in rural areas.
Even so, pollution isn’t nearly as big of a threat as smoking is. A 2009 study found 5% of male lung cancer cases and 3% of female cases between the years 1970 and 1994 could actually be attributed to pollution, whereas the rates for smokers is way higher. All in all, stay away from tobacco (or secondhand smoke) whenever you can.
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