November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and as a result, health organizations around the country are trying to dispell myths about the disease and educate Americans. It's estimated that more than 234,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in 2018, and more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
Many people assume that lung cancer comes as a result of smoking cigarettes, and although the risk for smokers is much higher than the risk for non-smokers, there are other ways you can develop the disease without picking up the bad habit.
Here are four other things that will raise your risk of getting lung cancer:
1. Breathing in secondhand smoke. You might not smoke, but if your family member or friend does, you're still putting yourself at risk. The American Cancer Society states that roughly 7,000 people die of lung cancer from secondhand smoke every year, so steer clear of others who are damaging their own lungs with cigarettes.
2. Living in an area with high air pollution levels. Unfortunately, you might be breathing in pollutants without even realizing it if you live in a big city or places with high levels of contaminants. However, the American Cancer Society claims that this risk is lower in the United States than in many other countries due to certain policies that have been implemented.
3. Inhaling asbestos. Old factories, schools, homes and other buildings used to be constructed with asbestos fibers. Now, we know that asbestos can scar human lungs and increase people's risk of cancer. Therefore, there has been a dramatic reduction in the use of asbestos since the 1970s, but some old buildings may still house the dangerous material.
4. Exposing yourself to radon gas. This is a type of radioactive gas that's both odorless and tasteless. We all probably breathe in a little every day, but when a person is exposed to a substantial amount of radon, they increase their risk of developing lung cancer. This can happen when homes are built on soil containing high levels of uranium, thorium and radium.
During National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, survivors and their families are encouraged to share their stories with others. People can also help spread awareness by encouraging people to schedule their annual doctor's appointments and learn about the early signs of lung cancer.
To learn more about lung cancer or this special month, visit lcam.org.