Lung cancer is one cancer that does not make many headlines. For this reason most people may not realize that lung cancer is on the rise, especially with women.
The fact is that lung cancer kills more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. It is estimated that in this year alone 72,130 women in the United States will die from lung cancer. With such a high number, many people may wonder why more isn’t being said about lung cancer. The main reason that lung cancer hasn’t been talked about in the past is that most people assume that lung caner was a cancer that one brought on to themselves from smoking. But people are realizing that this is not the only reason why people are developing lung cancer. (The death of Dana Reeve also has brought lung cancer out of the background).
The statistics say that lung cancer is beginning to strike younger women. Forty-one percent of the women who have developed lung cancer are under that age of fifty. Not all women who develop lung cancer are smokers either. Twenty percent of the women who develop lung cancer never smoked.
The number of women who have died from lung cancer has gone up more than 600 percent between the years of 1950 and 1997. Why?
First, we need to understand why women are at risk more than men are. Researchers say that women are three times more at risk to develop lung cancer than men are. Why? For those who smoke or who are around second hand smoke, researchers believe it is the fact that the DNA in women makes it harder to repair the damage that is done by the exposure of cigarette carcinogens. Another factor against women is estrogen. Some researchers believe that estrogen may actually cause the development of cancer cells to grow.
Can women protect themselves? Yes, to some degree. First, if you smoke, quit. The majority of lung cancer victims are smokers or once were smokers. Just one cigarette a day is dangerous and increases a woman’s chances of developing lung cancer tenfold.
Secondly, if you are around smokers, ask, plead or just plan ban them from smoking inside your home.
Thirdly, test your home for radon. Radon is an odorless gas that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. It is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer. The gas outside is virtually harmless. But when it seeps into your house (into your basement for example) it becomes concentrated and highly dangerous.
The fourth step you can take is eating more broccoli, soy beans, carrots, spinach, and teas. They all are rich in a substance called phytoestrogents that will help block estrogen from stimulating cancer growth.
The fifth thing you can do is check your home for asbestos. Houses built before 1970 may contain asbestos. Asbestos is a fiber that was used in some insulation. It is only harmful when it starts to deteriorate.
The last thing you can do to protect yourself from lung cancer is by getting screen. You especially should get screen if you are over the age of 50 and if you used to smoke. The test is a simple CT test. But be warned that the test has been known to give out a high rate of false positives.
The good news is that there is now a new class of drugs that seems to be especially helpful in lung cancer patients who have never smoked. Funding for new research may also finally be on its way. In March Congress sponsored two resolutions requesting that the President declare lung cancer a national public health priority.
Yet, lung cancer is a serious and deadly disease. If you smoke, please try to quit. If you don’t smoke, try to stay away from second hand smoke.
To learn more or to help lobby for more research check out the lung cancer Alliance at lungcanceralliance.org