The major risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, or exposure to any kind of tobacco product. Nonsmokers who breathe in other people’s smoke (secondhand smoke) also are at higher risk for lung cancer.
If you smoke, you can lower your risk for lung cancer by stopping now. That will also lower the risk for people around you. If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer or are in treatment, it’s not too late to quit. Research shows that quitting smoking can make chemotherapy work better.
Sometimes, there’s no clear reason why a person gets lung cancer. In fact, out of every 10 people with non-small cell lung cancer, about 2 of them never smoked.
People who smoke, and people who smoked but recently quit, are at higher risk for lung cancer. They are 10 to 20 times more at risk than someone who never smoked. If you’re a current or former smoker, you may want to consider screening for lung cancer. MSK offers an online tool that can help you understand your risk. We also have screening services for people who are at high risk.
Other risk factors include exposure to asbestos or radon. These toxic (poisonous or harmful) substances can damage the lungs, leading to cancer.