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  • What is lung cancer?
    • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Lung cancer forms in the tissue of the lung, usually in the cells lining the air passages.

  • What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
    • Cigarette smoking is the single most crucial risk factor for, and leading cause of, lung cancer. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Occupational substances categorized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known lung carcinogens include:

      * Arsenic
      * Asbestos
      * Bischloromethlyl ether
      * Chromium
      * Nickel
      * Polycyclic aromatic compounds
      * Radon
      * Vinyl chloride.

      A history of certain lung diseases also increases the risk for lung cancer. Diets low in fruits and vegetables might increase the risk of lung cancer in persons who smoke. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is a recognized causal factor for lung cancer and air pollution may increase lung-cancer risk slightly. The impact of outdoor air pollution on lung cancer needs further study.

  • How is lung cancer related to the environment?
    • Smoking-the only risk factor a person can control-is the most common cause of lung cancer. Even for nonsmokers, exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke increases the risk for lung cancer. According to the 2006 Surgeon General's Report, the evidence suggests that secondhand smoke exposure can cause lung cancer in lifetime nonsmokers, regardless of where the exposure occurs (home, work, restaurants, etc.).

      Studies also indicate that exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic, chromium, and silica, substances used or produced in foundries, and substances produced by processing coal may increase the risk for lung cancer, especially among smokers.

      Another risk for lung cancer is exposure to radon gas. Radon can be found throughout the United States. It can infiltrate homes, offices, and schools and cause high indoor radon levels. The greatest exposure likely occurs in homes where most personal time is spent.

  • How can you prevent lung cancer?
    • Not smoking is the most effective way to reduce the risk for lung cancer. Limiting exposure to secondhand smoke and testing homes for radon also reduce the risk for lung cancer. Increasing fresh fruit and vegetable consumption may also decrease risk, as well as help prevent other diseases. Also, applicable health and safety rules, like wearing protective equipment, should be adhered to in high-risk jobs.

Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Lung Cancer Data:
Access the lung cancer data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online database has data about other specific cancers:

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure cancer?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • counts for each cancer type
  • age adjusted rate for each cancer type

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
  • Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
  • Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
  • Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking