Breast cancer may be the primary cancer that affects women in the United States,but it is not the leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
According to a new report from the American Lung Association (ALA) breast cancer is responsible for the deaths of approximately 22 women out of every 100,000 annually, but lung cancer claims the lives of 38 out of 100,000 women. Not only is the lung cancer mortality higher, the majority of women polled had no idea how prevalent the disease was.
Out of more than a thousand women in the United States asked to pick the top cancer killer of women, 51 percent selected breast cancer as their choice, and only 22 percent selected lung cancer. According to experts, this is primarily because lung cancer is considered a “smokers disease,” despite the fact the ALA indicates women who don’t smoke are at as much risk as those who do for lung cancer.
How is that possible?
While it’s true that smoking is the leasing cause of lung cancer, people tend to forget that secondhand smoke, or the exposure to smoke in the environment, is just as dangerous as the actual act of smoking. And even if smoking is taken out of the equation, there are other factors that can cause lung cancer.
Most people aren’t aware of it, but radon, a naturally-occurring gas in the environment, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.
Radon, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is responsible for more than 20,000 cases of lung cancer annually. Because this gas is found in the environment, it is estimated that 1 in every 15 homes has detectable radon levels, and people are exposed to radon everyday in the air they breathe. For most individuals, radon exposure is minimal and doesn’t impact their lives; however, those who are exposed to higher levels than normal have a significantly increased risk for lung cancer.
“Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of the elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil,” states the National Cancer Institute. “It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air. In a few areas, depending on local geology, radon dissolves into ground water and can be released into the air when the water is used. Radon gas usually exists at very low levels outdoors; however, in areas without adequate ventilation, such as underground mines, radon can accumulate to levels that substantially increase the risk of lung cancer.”
Basements and first floor living areas tend to have the highest levels of radon because they are the closest to the ground.
But why is lung cancer still not a concern among women? Alana Burns, vice president of the ALAs Signature Cause Campaign, said the poor survival rate for female lung cancer sufferers is due to the fact that the condition hasn’t gotten the attention that other issues such as breast cancer have.
“With breast cancer, there are so many survivors out there telling their stories and advocating,” Burns said, as reported by EmaxHealth. “But more than half of women diagnosed with lung cancer are gone within a year. There is no legion of survivors talking about their experiences.”