Lung cancer, an intimidating adversary in the global health arena, affects millions of lives annually. As healthcare professionals dedicated to fighting this lethal disease, it is essential that we stay abreast of the latest research and risk factors in order to provide the best patient care. We’re all well aware of common risk factors – smoking and exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke – but what about the lesser-known risk factors. Understanding these risks can equip us better to prevent, detect, and treat this life-threatening condition.
This blog post aims to shine a light on the top 5 unexpected causes of lung cancer. It’s time we gave these under-the-radar risk factors the attention they deserve.
Radon Gas Exposure
Perhaps one of the most surprising causes of lung cancer is exposure to radon gas. This naturally occurring radioactive gas seeps from the earth’s crust into buildings, where even low exposure can increase the risk of lung cancer. It’s colourless, odourless, and tasteless, making it almost impossible to detect without specialized equipment, meaning it often goes unnoticed until serious health issues arise.
In Saudi Arabia, radon gas is most prevalent in areas with granitic or volcanic rock formations, which are commonly found in the western and southwestern regions of the country. These regions include parts of the Asir, Makkah, and Madinah provinces.
Potential symptoms of radon gas exposure include shortness of breath (difficulty breathing), a new or worsening cough, pain or tightness in the chest, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing.
Indoor Air Pollution
The focus on outdoor air pollution as a lung cancer risk is well-deserved, but it’s equally important to pay attention to indoor air quality. Everyday household items, like cleaning products can release harmful pollutants into the air we breathe at home, potentially increasing our risk of developing lung cancer. Many household cleaning agents, such as aerosol sprays, disinfectants, and even some air fresheners, contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals that can be released into the air during use.
Long-term exposure to such indoor air pollutants has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
You might suggest patients wear a mask when using harsh cleaning products in their home. Additionally, ensuring proper ventilation during and after cleaning can aid in reducing pollutant buildup. Opting for eco-friendly and low-VOC cleaning products can also be a safer choice for both your health and the environment. Regularly maintaining and cleaning the HVAC system, using air purifiers, and keeping indoor plants can further improve indoor air quality.
Occupational Hazards: The Hidden Dangers of Certain Professions
Specific industries expose workers to substances that can significantly increase their risk of developing lung cancer.
In regions with prevalent mining activities, such as Saudi Arabia’s western and southwestern areas, miners face an elevated risk due to exposure to radon gas and hazardous dust containing substances like silica. Construction workers in rapidly developing areas, major cities, and industrial zones are also vulnerable to harmful agents like asbestos and silica, which can contribute to lung cancer. Employees in various manufacturing sectors, including steel production, chemical manufacturing, and cement industries, may encounter carcinogenic agents, further increasing their risk. Those working in the oil and gas industry may be exposed to dangerous chemicals and fumes, such as benzene, while agricultural workers in rural regions face risks from pesticides and organic dust. Long-haul truck drivers and transport workers may encounter diesel exhaust and airborne pollutants that contribute to lung cancer risk.
By recognizing these occupational hazards, we as healthcare professionals can advocate for safer work environments in sectors such as mining, construction, and manufacturing, thereby reducing the incidence of lung cancer among these workers.
While the link between smoking and lung cancer is well-established, there’s a less talked about factor: genetics. A family history of lung cancer can indicate a higher genetic susceptibility to the disease. Raising awareness about the role of genetics in lung cancer can help individuals understand their risk level and take appropriate preventative measures.
The Rise of Vaping and E-cigarettes: A Modern-Day Threat
The advent of e-cigarettes has brought with it a new concern for lung health. As these devices have grown in popularity, so too have worries about their potential long-term effects on our lungs. While research is ongoing, initial studies suggest a possible link between vaping and an increased risk of lung cancer.
The Crucial Role of Pharmacists:
Discover more about lung cancer and the role pharmacists play in prevention, management, and support in our upcoming webinar, Preparing for increasing levels of breast and lung cancer in Saudi Arabia. During the webinar, we will discuss pivotal ways pharmacists can protect patients from lung cancer by encouraging smoking cessation, providing information on harmful substances, and promoting healthier lifestyle choices. By working closely with patients, pharmacists can positively impact lung cancer outcomes.
Monday, July 31 at 7pm
Register now and mark your calendar for this unmissable event:
We look forward to seeing you there!