Risk Factors

Men between 60 and 65 and women about 70 are at greater risk of having lung cancer.

Those who smoke have a risk of developing lung cancer that is 10 to 17 times higher than that of non-smokers. Women who smoke have a risk that is 5 to 10 times higher than that of women who do not smoke. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years the person has smoked. Some evidence suggests, however, that women and African-American men are more vulnerable.

The risk of lung cancer for non-smokers who are exposed to smoke in the environment (known as second-hand, passive, or involuntary smoking), is as much as 30 percent higher than that of those who are not. The risk is even higher for exposure to side stream smoke (from the smoldering end of a cigarette) than for mainstream smoke (smoke that has been exhaled by the smoker).

Industrial and atmospheric pollutants are responsible for a small percentage of lung cancer. For example, the risk of death from lung cancer is six to seven times greater for asbestos workers compared to the general population.