Lung cancer was not common prior to the 1930s but increased dramatically over the following decades
The incidence of lung cancer is strongly correlated with cigarette smoking, with about 90% of lung cancers arising as a result of tobacco use.
Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of which have been shown to be cancer-causing or carcinogenic. The two primary carcinogens in tobacco smoke are chemicals known as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Passive smoking or the inhalation of tobacco smoke by nonsmokers who share living or working quarters with smokers, also is an established risk factor for the development of lung cancer.
Research has shown that nonsmokers who reside with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with nonsmokers who do not reside with a smoker.
Asbestos fibers are silicate fibers that can persist for a lifetime in lung tissue following exposure to asbestos. The workplace is a common source of exposure to asbestos fibers, as asbestos was widely used in the past as both thermal and acoustic insulation.
Radon gas is a natural, chemically inert gas that is a natural decay product of uranium. Uranium decays to form products, including radon, that emit a type of ionizing radiation. Radon gas is a known cause of lung cancer.
Individual genetic susceptibility may play a role in causing lung cancer. Numerous studies have shown that lung cancer is more likely to occur in both smoking and nonsmoking relatives of those who have had lung cancer than in the general population.
The presence of certain diseases of the lung, notably chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is associated with an increased risk for the development of lung cancer.
Prior history of lung cancer
Survivors of lung cancer have a greater risk of developing a second lung cancer than the general population has of developing a first lung cancer.
Air pollution from vehicles, industry, and power plants can raise the likelihood of developing lung cancer in exposed individuals. Prolonged exposure to highly polluted air can carry a risk for the development of lung cancer