Environmental and occupational risk factors for lung cancer


Thoracic Oncology And Chest Imaging Network

Lung Cancer Section

Lung cancer is the third most prevalent cancer in United States, with the highest mortality (Oliver, 2022)(Siegel et al, 2023). The factors contributing to its occurrence have become more complex due to increased industrialization and worsening environmental pollution. Air pollution is a well-established environmental risk factor for lung cancer (Lu et al. 2019). On average, a full-time worker spends around 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. It is crucial to control environmental and occupational exposures to decrease the risk of developing lung cancer. Occupations like asbestos-related work, mining, and transportation are well-known to be at risk for lung cancer (Li et al. 2021). With worsening air pollution, occupations such as firefighters, outdoor delivery workers, and forest rangers are facing an increased risk as well. Many of these carcinogens independently increase lung cancer risk (Li et al. 2021). Smoking combined with these exposures, causes a synergistic effect on lung cancer incidence. They also have a cell subtype differential risk favoring squamous and small cell lung cancer (Christiani, 2020). It is essential for workers in these high-risk occupations to use proper PPE, have regular check-ups and screenings and follow occupational safety regulations and guidelines. As air pollution continues to worsen, individuals living in these areas should reduce outdoor activities during AQI alerts, and use air purifiers and masks. Public health efforts to decrease air pollution with cleaner transportation and energy production, and better local and national air quality regulations will decrease risk in the general population (Rice et al. 2021).


Amaraja Kanitkar, MD, MBBSGuest Author


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