Can Lung Cancer Be Prevented?

Not all lung cancers can be prevented. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk, such as changing the risk factors that you can control.

Stay away from tobacco

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. If you would like help quitting smoking, see How to Quit Smoking or Smokeless Tobacco or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.

Avoid radon exposure

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 Radon and Cancer.

Avoid or limit exposure to cancer-causing agents

Avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing agents, in the workplace and elsewhere, may also be helpful (see Lung Cancer Risk Factors). When people work where these exposures are common, they should be kept to a minimum.

Eat a healthy diet

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 both smokers and non-smokers against lung cancer. But any positive effect of fruits and vegetables on lung cancer risk would be much less than the increased risk from smoking.

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

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group. The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:1029-1035.

Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: Reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:30-67.

Omenn GS, Goodman GE, Thornquist et al. Risk factors for lung cancer and for intervention effects in CARET, the Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1996;88:1550-1559.

Last Medical Review: October 1, 2019 Last Revised: October 1, 2019

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