Breathing Fresh Air into Effective Lung Cancer Awareness


 Cancer is the leading cause of death globally, and resulted in 8.8 million deaths in 2015 alone.   Among the types of cancer that are known to be the most invasive, lung cancer is the leading killer, resulting in 1.69 million deaths in 2015, or roughly 20% of all cancer fatalities annually, according to data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO).

 The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States alone, there will be 222,500 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in 2017, and 155,870 American’s will die from lung cancer. Treatments for lung cancer have progressed in the last decade, and survivability rates have gone up.  But even so, as environmental and lifestyle factors continue to impact diagnoses rates, more research and education is needed to aid prevention.  

Causes and Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

 A global review of lung cancer cases reveals that men are more likely to develop lung cancer, than women.  There is no gender predisposition to lung cancer, and both men and women are likely to develop the life-threatening condition, however the data reveals that hazards in the workplace may be placing men at additional risk.

 Men are more likely to be employed in specific industries that report a high-risk of exposure to chemicals, and air particulates that can contribute to lung cancer.  Some of these occupations include:

  • Rubber manufacturing
  • Agricultural production
  • Mechanical repair
  • Construction
  • Mining
  • Plastic manufacturing and processing
  • Metalworking

Exposure to asbestos and other chemicals and compounds like arsenic, diesel exhaust, silica and chromium increase the risk of developing lung cancer, but the risk can rise exponentially for workers who are exposed daily, and smoke tobacco products.   

One of the most carcinogenic elements is radon, and it is a gas that occurs naturally in the soil and in rocks and minerals.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency shared that radon accounts for approximately 20,000 cases of lung cancer annually, and estimates that 1 in every 15 American homes may have high levels of radon. The gas seeps through the soil and becomes trapped in poorly ventilated buildings, causing long-term health risks.

But men are not the only gender at increased risk in the workplace. The two industries that report higher than normal lung cancer rates for women are hair stylists and colorists, and artificial nail technicians.  More attention has been paid to the nail aesthetics industry, revealing that female workers exhibited higher rates of miscarriage, lung cancer, respiratory ailments including asthma and emphysema.  

While wearing masks that filter fine acrylic particulates that are released during the filing of nails can help reduce negative health outcomes, there are several chemicals that are used on volume in nail salons that pose a significant risk to workers:

  • Acetone (nail polish remover)
  • Acetonitrile (glue removal)
  • Butyl Acetate (found in nail polish and nail polish removers)
  • Dibutyl Phthalate (the base chemical of colored nail polishes)
  • Formaldehyde (found in polishes and nail hardeners)
  • Methacrylic Acid (used to dehydrate the nail base as a primer)
  • Isopropyl Acetate (found in nail polish and removers)

Workers within the aesthetics industry are exposed to these carcinogenic chemicals in some cases, for as much as 45 hours per week, and they are quickly absorbed into the skin and lungs through inhalation, or transferred onto food (snacks) or cigarettes, and orally ingested.

The ‘toxic trio’ are three commonly used chemicals that are deadly when combined; toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate.  Commercial cleaning professionals and custodians are also exposed to many of the same chemical compounds daily, with negative health outcomes.

 Smoking and Lung Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that cigarette smoking remains the number one cause of lung cancer, and the lifestyle habit is attributed to 80% of new diagnosed cases.  Individuals who smoke are 15 to 30 times more likely to die from lung cancer, than non-smokers.   Second hand smokers (or those that live with or are surrounded by people who smoke) are also at an elevated risk of contracting cancer, and that includes children of parents who smoke.

There is a misconception that cigarette smoking only increases the risk of developing lung cancer.  The use of tobacco is linked to other types of oral cancer (mouth, throat, thyroid) and cancer of the colon, rectum, pancreas and liver.  Some studies have linked tobacco smoking to kidney and pancreatic cancer (one of the most lethal types) and acute myeloid leukemia.  

Smokers who quit will always have a slightly higher risk of developing lung cancer, than those who never smoked at all, however after even one year of smoking cessation, health begins to improve dramatically, lowering risks of COPD, cancer, respiratory ailments and other diseases.  Quitting smoking at any age, reduces the risk of developing cancer.

While survivability rates are increasing with radiation treatment and new surgical procedures that can remove cancerous cells from the lungs, the diagnoses remain a life-threatening one, with best prognoses realized during early intervention.

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