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What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer starts in the windpipe, the main airway or the lung tissue and is the third most common cancer in the UK. About 46,400 people are diagnosed with it each year.


What are the risk factors?

Age – Lung cancer mainly affects older people and is rare in people younger than 40. More than 4 out of 10 people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK are aged 75 and older.

Smoking – Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer. This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances. Smoking accounts for 70% of lung cancer.

Chemicals – For example working with asbestos, silica or high exposure to diesel engine exhaust fumes. Prolonged exposure to any of these 

Air Pollution – The exposure to outdoor air pollution causes around 1 out of 10 (10%) lung cancer cases in the UK. For most people this risk is very small.


How do I reduce my risk?

Stop smoking – It’s never too late to stop smoking and is one of the best things you can do for your health. The more cigarettes you smoke a day, the higher your risk of cancer. So reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke a day is a good first step.

It can be overwhelming to quit ‘cold turkey’. Cancer Research UK and the NHS have great resources and tools to help you quit, so you don’t feel alone doing so.


What are the symptoms?

There are usually little to no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but many people may develop some of the following.

  • a persistent cough
  • coughing up blood
  • persistent breathlessness
  • unexplained tiredness and weight loss
  • an ache or pain when breathing or coughing

Having a persistent cough can also be a symptom of many things including bronchitis, asthma or allergies to name a few. Though having one of these symptoms is not a definite sign of lung cancer, if you are concerned about a new or unexplained symptom, contact your doctor for an appointment to discuss your worries.