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What causes lung cancer?SmokingThe incidence of lung cancer is strongly correlated with cigarette smoking, with about 90% of lung cancers arising as a result of tobacco use. Sign up to stay informed with the latest cancer-related updates on MedicineNet delivered to your inbox FREE! What is the prognosis of lung cancer?The prognosis of lung cancer refers to the chance for cure or prolongation of life (survival) and is dependent upon where the cancer is located, the size of the cancer, the presence of symptoms, the type of lung cancer, and the overall health status of the patient.SCLC has the most aggressive growth of all lung cancers, with a median survival time of only two to four months after diagnosis when untreated.
Smoker's Lung: Pathology Photo Essay Symptoms, Causes, Treatment - What happens to the airways in chronic bronchitis?
Smoke contains more than 60 carcinogens (chemicals that cause cancer) and about 200 known toxic substances.
It is of interest that some smokers develop COPD, some develop lung cancer, some get neither, and some get both.
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If you, a friend, or relative smokes, please share your experience with or concerns about lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the time over which smoking has occurred; doctors refer to this risk in terms of pack-years of smoking history (the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day multiplied by the number of years smoked). As previously mentioned, smoking increases mucus production and impairs the clearing action of the cilia in the airway.
Moreover, the inflammatory cells that accumulate in the lung to fight off the infection can fill the alveolar spaces and thereby further limit diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Some alveoli, however, are unaffected and empty because the involvement of this lung with pneumonia is patchy.What about lung cancer in smokers?
Scientists are still learning about how carcinogens work and why only some people who smoke get lung cancer. Watch this slideshow and find practical tips to help you break your nicotine addiction and kick the cigarette habit for good. For example, a person who has smoked two packs of cigarettes per day for 10 years has a 20 pack-year smoking history. Because SCLC spreads rapidly and is usually disseminated at the time of diagnosis, methods such as surgical removal or localized radiation therapy are less effective in treating this type of lung cancer.
Also, the addition of bacteria, inflammatory cells, and damaged lung cells to the secretions in the airway and lung make the secretions especially thick, tenacious, and difficult to clear.

Therefore, smokers with COPD, who already have impaired breathing (pulmonary function), often become much worse when there is a superimposed infection of the lung (pneumonia). Genes are the hereditary units in chromosomes and appear to have a lot to do with a person's susceptibility to cancer.
Thus, if a lung cancer is more than an inch or so in diameter (as in this patient) or has spread outside of the lung, fewer than 50% of affected individuals will survive another 5 years. While the risk of lung cancer is increased with even a 10-pack-year smoking history, those with 30-pack-year histories or more are considered to have the greatest risk for the development of lung cancer. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina.
When chemotherapy is used alone or in combination with other methods, survival time can be prolonged four- to fivefold; however, of all patients with SCLC, only 5%-10% are still alive five years after diagnosis. Therefore, in such a stagnant and nutritious (the mucus) environment, bacteria can flourish and cause infection of the lung (pneumonia). The genes are made up of DNA (deoxyribose nucleic acid), which controls how cells divide and reproduce (proliferate). For example, the cancer cells can resemble cells of the skin (squamous cell carcinoma), cells of the bronchial glands (adenocarcinoma), or specialized cells of the nervous system (neuroendocrine carcinoma). Among those who smoke two or more packs of cigarettes per day, one in seven will die of lung cancer.Pipe and cigar smoking also can cause lung cancer, although the risk is not as high as with cigarette smoking. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology. Most of those who survive have limited-stage SCLC before treatment.In non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most important prognostic factor is the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor at the time of diagnosis. Furthermore, even the inflammatory cells are damaged by tobacco smoke so that their ability to fight infection is diminished.
Damage to DNA from cigarette smoke can lead to uncontrolled cell proliferation and growth, which is what cancer is finally all about.
What's more, consider a cancer that is less than an inch in size (or not large enough to be seen on a chest X-ray) and is confined to the lung.
Thus, while someone who smokes one pack of cigarettes per day has a risk for the development of lung cancer that is 25 times higher than a nonsmoker, pipe and cigar smokers have a risk of lung cancer that is about five times that of a nonsmoker.Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of which have been shown to be cancer-causing or carcinogenic. Results of standard treatment are generally poor in all but the smallest of cancers that can be surgically removed.

Unfortunately, even if such a cancer is completely removed by surgery, about 25% of individuals will still die from the cancer in less than 5 years from the time of diagnosis.
The two primary carcinogens in tobacco smoke are chemicals known as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. However, in stage I cancers that can be completely removed surgically, five-year survival approaches 75%. The reason for this poor outcome (prognosis) is that lung cancers tend to spread (metastasize) early in the course of disease to other organs, most often the brain, liver, and bone.
The risk of developing lung cancer decreases each year following smoking cessation as normal cells grow and replace damaged cells in the lung. Radiation therapy can produce a cure in a small minority of patients with NSCLC and leads to relief of symptoms in most patients.
In former smokers, the risk of developing lung cancer begins to approach that of a nonsmoker about 15 years after cessation of smoking. In advanced-stage disease, chemotherapy offers modest improvements in survival although rates of overall survival are poor. Passive smokingPassive smoking or the inhalation of tobacco smoke by nonsmokers who share living or working quarters with smokers, also is an established risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Research has shown that nonsmokers who reside with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with nonsmokers who do not reside with a smoker. Survival rates for lung cancer are generally lower than those for most cancers, with an overall five-year survival rate for lung cancer of about 17% compared to 65% for colon cancer, 91% for breast cancer, 81% for bladder cancer, and over 99% for prostate cancer.Is it possible to prevent lung cancer?Cessation of smoking and eliminating exposure to tobacco smoke is the most important measure that can prevent lung cancer. The risk appears to increase with the degree of exposure (number of years exposed and number of cigarettes smoked by the household partner). Many products, such as nicotine gum, nicotine sprays, or nicotine inhalers, may be helpful to people trying to quit smoking. Using a home radon test kit can identify and allow correction of increased radon levels in the home. Methods that allow early detection of cancers, such as the helical low-dose CT scan, also may be of value in the identification of small cancers that can be cured by surgical resection and prevented from becoming widespread, incurable, metastatic cancer.

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