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Aside from skin cancers, which affect over one million people a year and are often treatable, lung cancer is the most common form of this disease in America for both men and women. What is even more shocking is that there are more deaths every year because of lung cancer then there are from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer combined. This is a very serious disease with very serious consequences. Take a look at the general facts on lung cancer and decide what you can do to avoid this illness.
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Cases and Survivability
There are 222,520 expected new cases of lung cancer this year, and 157,300 deaths. These numbers have been on the rise, especially among women who have a greater risk of developing a tumor in lung tissue (research points to the female hormone estrogen helping the tumor's growth). Since 1987 when lung cancer became the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women, surpassing breast cancer numbers, lung cancer deaths have risen 150 percent for women and 20 percent for men.
How old are people who are diagnosed with lung cancer? The median age of diagnoses is 71, with the majority of new cases being diagnosed between age 55 and 74. Although women are at greater risk, there is still a higher incidence of lung cancer among men, most likely because of more male smokers. There are 76.2 cases for every 100,000 men and 52.4 cases for every 10,000 women according to statistics taken from 2003 to 2007 by the National Cancer Institute. Black men are more likely to develop lung cancer and to die from it than any other race or gender division. Hispanic women are the least likely to have lung cancer.
How old are people who are dying because of lung cancer? The median age is 72 years, with most fatalities being from age 55 to 84. What about survival rates based on the stage of the cancer? For localized, early stage tumors the 5 year survival rate is 52.9 percent. A small amount, 16 percent, of patients are diagnosed in the early stage. Once the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes the 5 year survival rate drops to 24 percent. As the tumor spreads to other organs the likeliness of survival drops dramatically — the 5 year survival rate is only 3.5 percent.
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Facts on Smoking and Lung Cancer
What is the cause of this disease which is responsible for 28 percent of all cancer-related deaths? Smoking. 8 of every 10 cases are due to tobacco smoke. The longer an individual smokes and the more cigarettes that are smoked, the greater the risk. Cigar, pipe-smoking, and even smoking marijuana can all contribute to lung cancer as well.
Second-hand smoke can also cause lung cancer. Being exposed to second-hand smoke, either at work or at home, increases your risk of developing a tumor in the lungs by 20 to 30 percent. Exposure to pollutants can also be a contributing factor.
Quitting does greatly reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. When smoking stops lung tissue eventually repairs and returns to normal. As this takes time, there is a continued high risk of developing lung cancer for 20 years.
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Aside from quitting smoking, are there other ways to reduce the risk of developing lung cancer? Sure! Eat a healthy diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Get regular exercise. See a doctor regularly, especially if you smoke, have smoked, or have a family history of lung cancer.
Knowing the general facts on lung cancer is important. If you smoke, consider stopping. If you know someone who smokes, talk to them about quitting. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis, know that you do have a significant risk. Also, as the survival rates are very low once a tumor has spread, be sure to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and potential screening.
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Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
National Lung Cancer Partnership <http://www.nationallungcancerpartnership.org/index.cfm?page=lung_cancer_facts_US>
National Cancer Institute <http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html>
Illinois Department of Public Health <http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/womenshealth/factsheets/lung.htm>
photo by Fran Ulloa (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/alosojos/304603500/sizes/m/in/photostream/>
photo by Jayel Aheram (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/aheram/2076675398/sizes/m/in/photostream/>