Yesterday was World Lung Cancer Day. Started by the European Respiratory Society (ERS), 1st August was chosen as a date to raise awareness around a condition that affects 47,000 people every yearin the UK. Around 35,100 of these lung cancer patients will, tragically, go on to die. That’s 96 deaths every day.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for almost a quarter of all cancer deaths. This makes combatting lung cancer is one of the most urgent projects in medical research. With the potential to save many thousands of lives, raising awareness around its causes and finding treatments is vitally important.
Avoid tobacco smoke (that includes non-smokers)
Research suggests that about 85% of the lung cancer cases in men in the UK are attributable to smoking. In women, the figure is about 80%. Many of these diagnoses could be prevented by quitting smoking. If you stop smoking before cancer develops, the damaged lung tissue gradually repairs itself. No matter your age or how long you’ve smoked, quitting may help you live longer.
However, it’s not only smokers that are at risk of developing lung cancer from tobacco smoke. Non-smokers that are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20–30%. According to estimates, passive smoking causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths in the US every year.
Other risks in the air we breathe
There are other ways we can passively inhale cancer-causing agents. There is now overwhelming evidence to suggest that particle pollution from vehicle exhausts and industrial sources can cause lung cancer. It can also interfere with the growth and function of the lungs, as well as cause chronic conditions like asthma.
There are also risks indoors. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 17% of lung cancer deaths globally are attributable to exposure to carcinogens indoors. Many of these carcinogens are caused by the fuel used for simple household tasks like cooking. Equally, according to new research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, fumes from household cleaning products can cause as much damage to your lungs as smoking.
What can be done?
Researchers are investigating how we can effectively treat and prevent lung cancer. Of course, discouraging smoking is essential, as has been known for decades now. Another time-honoured approach is encouraging healthier diets and lifestyles to counteract carcinogenic agents.
However, there are more innovative approaches emerging. Scientists are investigating the possibility of a vaccine, similar to that developed for the cancer-causing HPV virus. With an immunotherapeutic approach, it’s possible that we can combat the agents that contribute to tumour growth.
We can also do more to care for the air we breathe. Tackling climate change is essential to this objective. Meanwhile, indoors, with filtration technology like that offered by Rejuvenair, we can improve conditions. Either way, fighting cancer is a collaborative project and we need to keep innovating together to save lives.