Lung Cancer (Small Cell)

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention TOPICS

Can small cell lung cancer be prevented?

Not all lung cancers can be prevented, but there are some ways you can reduce your risk of getting lung cancer.

The best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is not to smoke and to avoid breathing in other people’s smoke.

If you stop smoking before a cancer develops, your damaged lung tissue gradually starts to repair itself. No matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked, quitting may lower your risk of lung cancer and help you live longer. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who continue to smoke. If you would like help quitting smoking, see our document Guide to Quitting Smoking or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.

Radon is an important cause of lung cancer. You can reduce your exposure to radon by having your home tested and treated, if needed. For more information, see our document Radon.

It is also helpful to avoid being exposed to known cancer-causing chemicals, in the workplace and elsewhere (see “What are the risk factors for small cell lung cancer?”). People working where these exposures are common should try to keep exposure to a minimum when possible.

A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables may also help reduce your risk of lung cancer. Some evidence suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may help protect against lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers. But any positive effect of fruits and vegetables on lung cancer risk would be much less than the increased risk from smoking.

Attempts to reduce the risk of lung cancer in current or former smokers by giving them high doses of vitamins or vitamin-like drugs have not been successful so far. In fact, some studies have found that beta-carotene, a nutrient related to vitamin A, appears to increase the rate of lung cancer in these people.

Some people who get lung cancer do not have any clear risk factors. Although we know how to prevent most lung cancers, at this time we don’t know how to prevent all of them.


Last Medical Review: 09/12/2014
Last Revised: 11/10/2014