5 Causes of Lung Cancer in Kenya

Lung cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. Although, People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer, it can also occur in people who have never smoked. Prominent Kenyans who have died of lung cancer include media personality Janet Kanini Ikua and former Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Jane Kiano.

Internationally the list includes Walt Disney and musician Nat King Cole.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bronchitis, pneumonia or other infections that keep recurring

Risk factors of lung cancer

A risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing the disease.

1. Smoking

As a smoker, from the moment you inhale smoke into your lungs, it starts damaging your lung tissue. The lungs can repair the damage, but continued exposure to smoke makes it increasingly difficult for the lungs to keep up the repair.

Once cells are damaged, they begin to behave abnormally, increasing the likelihood of developing lung cancer.

2. Exposure to radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which decays into radioactive particles. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe.

These radioactive particles can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe and continue to break down, releasing small bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and, over many years, lead to lung cancer.

The World Health Organization says radon causes up to 14 percent of lung cancer deaths worldwide.

3. Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in adults who have never smoked in their lifetime. This is in addition to other health conditions like coronary heart disease, stroke, pregnancy loss, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) etc.

4. Exposure to asbestos

Asbestos can cause cancer and chronic respiratory diseases after any asbestos fibers are inhaled or ingested. When a person breathes high levels of asbestos over time, some of the fibers lodge deep in the lungs. Irritation caused by the fibers can eventually lead to scarring (fibrosis) in the lungs

5. Family history

Some people inherit DNA mutations (changes) from their parents that greatly increase their risk for developing lung cancer.

If you have an immediate family member who has or had lung cancer, you may be more prone to developing the disease.

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