9 Surprising Causes of Lung Cancer

According to WebMD, there are nine surprising factors that may lead to lung cancer, including:

Secondhand Smoke

You don’t have to light up to be at risk for cancer. Just being in a room with folks who do can bring it on. Every year in the U.S. over 7,000 nonsmokers die from lung cancer caused by secondhand fumes. Live with a smoker and you could boost your odds of lung cancer by up to 30%.

Air Pollution

The World Health Organization named air pollution a cause of lung cancer in 2013. Lots of junk in the air we breathe — exhaust, chemicals, dust — factor in as well. But bad air as a whole, especially outside the U.S., is a major problem because of the sheer number of people who have to breathe it.


Today this mineral is officially classified as a cause of cancer. It’s been banned for new uses since 1989, but for centuries folks weren’t aware of the dangers it posed. It was widely used to insulate and fireproof buildings. If you’re in the construction business, especially if you work on older buildings, you could be at risk.


This colorless, odorless gas forms as soil and rocks break down. As that happens, it seeps into buildings. It’s also radioactive and the second-leading cause of lung cancer (behind smoking) in the U.S. Radon is responsible for as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year.

Family History

If you have lung cancer in the family tree, you may be more likely to get it yourself. It’s not clear if that’s due to genetics or because family members often live where causes like secondhand smoke, radon, and other things are in play.


It’s hard to tease out the link between booze and lung cancer because so many people smoke when they drink. But one study suggests heavy alcohol use is tied to the disease, even among nonsmokers. Researchers followed more than 100,000 people and found those who have more than three drinks a day were more likely to get lung cancer.

Radiation Therapy

Doctors use high doses of it to kill cancer cells. But despite all the good it can do, this treatment is considered a potential cause for secondary cancers. Lots of things can factor in: The dosage, your age, and the area treated all play a role. Still, it’s worth talking to your doctor about the risks.

A High-Carbohydrate diet

A high-carbohydrate diet, which leads to high blood sugar and insulin resistance, has been linked to lung cancer. Eat fewer foods that are high on the glycemic index — white breads, Russet potatoes, white rice — and you might keep lung cancer at bay.


If you have HIV, which causes AIDS, you may be more likely to get lung cancer. Research is ongoing to see if the human papilloma virus (HPV) which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer can also increase the risk for lung cancer. The measles virus has also been linked to it.