Lung Cancer Myths and Facts

Myth: It’s Too Late if You've Smoked for Years

Woman smoking

Fact: Quitting has almost-immediate benefits. Your circulation will improve and your lungs will work better. Your lung cancer risk will start to drop over time. Ten years after you kick the habit, your odds of getting the disease will be half of what they are now.

Myth: Low-Tar or 'Light' Cigarettes Are Safer Than Regular

Photo of tar stained cigarette filters.

Fact: They're just as risky. And beware of menthol: Some research suggests that menthol cigarettes may be more dangerous and harder to quit. Their cooling sensation prompts some people to inhale more deeply.

Myth: It’s OK to Smoke Pot

Photo of person holding marijuana cigarette.

Fact: Marijuana smoking may raise your lung cancer risk. Many people who use pot also smoke cigarettes. Some research shows that people who do both could be even more likely to get lung cancer.

Myth: Antioxidant Supplements Protect You

Photo of vitamins.

Fact: When researchers tested these products, they unexpectedly found a higher risk of lung cancer among smokers who took beta-carotene. Talk to your doctor first. It's OK to get antioxidants from fruits and vegetables.

Myth: Pipes and Cigars Aren’t a Problem

Photo of of man smoking cigar.

Fact: Just like cigarettes, they'll put you at risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and lungs. Cigar smoking, in particular, makes you much more likely to get heart disease and lung disease.

Myth: Smoking Is the Only Risk

Photo of radon test kit.

Fact: It's the biggest one, but there are others. The No. 2 cause of lung cancer is an odorless radioactive gas called radon. Given off by rock and soil, it can seep up into homes and other buildings. You can test your house or office for it. Call your state or county health department for information.

Myth: Talcum Powder Is a Cause

Photo of footprints in talcum powder.

Fact: Research shows no clear link between lung cancer and accidentally breathing in talcum powder. People who work with other chemicals, including asbestos and vinyl chloride, are more likely to get the disease.

Myth: If You Have Lung Cancer, Quitting Is Pointless

Photo of broken cigarette.

Fact: If you stop, your treatment may work better and your side effects could be milder. And if you need surgery, ex-smokers tend to heal better than smokers. If you need radiation for cancer of the larynx, you're less likely to become hoarse if you don't light up. And in some cases, quitting makes a second cancer less likely to start.

Myth: Exercise Doesn't Affect Your Risk

Photo of running through park.

Fact: People who get regular physical activity may be less likely to get lung cancer, studies show. Working out also helps your lungs work better and helps prevent heart disease, strokes, and many other serious conditions.

Myth: Air Pollution Isn't a Cause

Photo of smoke stacks.

Fact: Tobacco is by far the biggest threat, but air pollution is a risk factor, too. People who live in areas with a lot of it are more likely to get lung cancer than those who live where the air is cleaner. Many U.S. cities have cut down on air pollution in recent years, but there are still dangerous levels in other parts of the world.

Additional Information on Lung Cancer

For more information about Lung Cancer, please consider the following:

Sources:

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

  1. Thinkstock
  2. Henryk T Kaiser/Age Fotostock
  3. Eduardo Ripoll/Age Fotostock
  4. John Block/Botanica
  5. Photodisc
  6. Mark Burnett/Photo Researchers Inc.
  7. Don Smith/Flickr
  8. Image Source
  9. Chase Jarvis/Digital Vision
  10. Brad Wilson/Photographer's Choice

REFERENCES:

  • Aldington, S. European Respiratory Journal, February 2008.
  • American Cancer Society.
  • Boffetta, P. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, April 21, 1999.
  • Cranganu, A. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 2009.
  • Druesne-Pecollo, N. International Journal of Cancer, Oct. 28, 2009, Epub ahead of print.
  • Iribarren, C. New England Journal of Medicine, June 10, 1999.
  • National Cancer Institute.
  • Parsons, A. BMJ, Jan. 21, 2010.
  • Ramanakumar, A. International Journal of Cancer, January 2008.
  • Stanford Medicine Cancer Center.
  • Sui, X. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, May 2010.
  • Tardon, A. Cancer Causes Control, May 2005.
  • U.S. Surgeon General's Report, 1990.
WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information