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Cancer Awareness and Prevention

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How to lower your risk for lung cancer

Lung cancer, the most common cause of cancer death across the globe, is a formidable foe. According to the World Health Organization, lung cancer causes 1.76 million deaths per year. That's more than double the number of deaths caused each year by colorectal cancer, which is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the world. The American Cancer Society notes that, while not all lung cancer deaths can be prevented, there are things everyone can do to reduce their risk of getting this deadly disease.

• Steer clear of tobacco. The ACS says avoiding tobacco is the best way for people to lower their risk of developing lung cancer. Even nonsmokers are at risk if they breathe in other people's smoke. For smokers, the benefits of quitting are nearly immediate, as the ACS notes smokers' heart rates and blood pressure drop just 20 minutes after quitting. In addition, carbon monoxide levels in smokers' blood drop to normal 12 hours after they quit smoking.

• Avoid radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that's released when the elements uranium, thorium and radium in rocks and soil naturally decay. According to the National Cancer Institute, when radon decays, it gives off tiny radioactive particles. If these particles are inhaled, they can damage the cells that line the lung. Prolonged exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer. Homeowners and landlords should have their properties routinely tested for radon. Such tests are the only way to detect if a home has elevated radon levels. Because factors such as rain, snow and barometric pressure can cause radon levels to vary from day to day or month to month, the NCI recommends routine testing (both short- and long-term tests are available).

• Reduce or eliminate your exposure to certain chemicals. The American Lung Association says that exposure to certain hazardous chemicals increase a person's risk of developing lung cancer. Materials such as asbestos, uranium, arsenic, cadmium, and other chemicals can be especially dangerous. If you are exposed to such chemicals at work, follow safety guidelines at all times and speak with your physician about how to protect yourself.

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