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The connection between radon and lung cancer

Date Published: 02/03/2020 [Source]

Radon is a radioactive gas found in the soil. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, radon forms when the radioactive metals uranium, thorium or radium break down in rocks, soil and groundwater. People are constantly exposed to radon because it comes naturally from the earth. However, when that exposure exceeds certain levels, the consequences can be severe.

How am I exposed to radon?

Many people are exposed to radon from breathing it in through the air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes. The CDC notes that, because it's naturally occurring, radon is always present in the air. In many instances, radon is present at levels that are harmless. However, homeowners, building owners and business owners should have radon levels checked periodically to ensure that the levels present in the air are not posing a threat. Levels can change, and levels can vary from home to home. But the EPA notes that testing for radon is both inexpensive and easy.

Are radon and cancer connected?

According to the CDC, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. People who smoke and live in homes with high radon levels are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. In fact, estimates from the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General's Office suggest that radon causes more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States.

As radon is breathed in, radioactive particles from the gas can get trapped in the lungs. Over time, these particles increase a person's risk for lung cancer.

But it's not just smokers who are vulnerable to lung cancer caused by radon. Estimates from the EPA indicate that radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, causing about 2,900 deaths each year in the United States among people who have never smoked.

Radon is a significant threat that can increase a person's risk of lung cancer. Testing for radon and taking action when exposure is high can reduce your risk for lung cancer.