Danger in the Air: How to Protect Yourself from Lung Cancer
How to Protect Yourself from Lung Cancer
Puffing on cigarettes is still the top cause of lung cancer, and women who do so are 13 times more likely to get the disease. But you don't need a pack-a-day habit to make you ill. Check out these three factors that can raise -- or lower -- your chances.
- You used to smoke. Your lung cancer risk went down soon after you took your last drag. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that five years after quitting, a female former smoker is 21 percent less likely to die from the disease than a woman who continues to smoke. Her risk is further reduced each year.
- Your husband smokes when you're not around. It's good that you're not breathing in secondhand smoke (which increases your chance of contracting lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent), but his unhealthy ways could still be bad for you. Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that "thirdhand smoke" -- the nicotine vapors that cling to hair, skin, furniture, car interiors, and dust for days and even months after someone has smoked -- react with the common indoor air pollutant nitrous acid. Together they produce dangerous carcinogens that can be inhaled with dust or enter the bloodstream through the skin.
- You sneak a few cigs after work. Lung cancer risk for women ages 35 through 49 who smoke one to four cigarettes a day is five times higher than that of nonsmokers, according to a study from the University of California, San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. "There's a widespread belief that a single cigarette won't hurt you, but that's not true," says Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, the center's director. "You're still exposing yourself to cancer-causing chemicals."
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly one in 15 homes in the United States has unhealthy levels of radon, an odorless gas that is second only to smoking as the top cause of lung cancer. To test your home for radon, buy a DIY kit at your local hardware store (or for $15 to $25 at sosradon.org). If readings are at four picocuries per liter or higher, the EPA recommends that you install a radon reduction system, usually a pipe and fan that vents the vapors to the outside. Find a certified radon contractor in your area at neha-nrpp.org or nrsb.org. Also, alert your doctor, who can assess your lung cancer risk.How Clean Is Your Air?
Bakersfield, California, was one of the most polluted cities in the nation last year, while the people of Cheyenne, Wyoming, were breathing easy. Keep track of daily air-quality reports in your city at airnow.gov. The EPA-sponsored website allows you to type in your zip code to find up-to-the-minute data on ozone and pollution. When levels are high, exercise inside.
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