The No. 1 thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to avoid tobacco smoke. Don't start to smoke if you do not already, and if you do, quit (or keep quitting until you are able to stop for good). New research seems to suggest that quitting at any time, even if you have been smoking for many years, still lowers your risk of getting lung cancer. In addition, try to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke from other people's cigarettes, since that, too, puts you at risk. This means asking family members or visitors who smoke to do so outside. It's also a good idea to avoid spending a lot of time in public places, including some bars and restaurants, where many people are lighting up. You can take steps in other areas of your life to lower your risk:
Some cases of lung cancer cannot be explained by any of these factors and cannot be prevented. In the future, genetic tests may explain these cases and allow susceptible individuals to monitor lungs more closely for the earliest signs of cancer.
It's hard to quit smoking, but it's also the most effective way to ward off lung cancer (as well as a host of other diseases including many other cancers). While even former smokers do get the disease, their risk is lower than that of active smokers, so remember, it's never too late to quit.
For more on how to stop, see our smoking cessation guide. The federal government (see Smokefree.gov) and many state governments have programs that offer tips and plans on how to quit. Good counseling should include information, motivation, and tips and can be done over the phone as well as in person. The American Cancer Society (ACS) also has a toll-free number where you can seek free help and counseling services (1-800-227-2345).
Last reviewed on 7/28/09
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