Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

What causes lung cancer?

2 min read

Lung cancer happens when there is DNA damage to the cells in the lungs. The main cause of this is smoking tobacco. While the causes of lung cancer are not fully understood, there are a number of other factors associated with the risk of developing the disease. These factors include:

  • environmental factors such as passive smoking, random exposure and occupational exposures, such as asbestos and diesel exhaust
  • a family history of lung cancer
  • previous lung diseases such as lung fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).

Smoking

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals, 69 of which can lead to the development of cancer. If you smoke, youare 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than someone who does not smoke.

While smoking cigarettes is the biggest risk factor, using other types of tobacco products can also increase your risk of developing lung cancer and other types of cancer, such as oesophageal cancer and mouth cancer. These products include:

  • cigars
  • pipe tobacco
  • snuff (a powdered form of tobacco)
  • chewing tobacco.

Smoking cannabis has also been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Most cannabis smokers mix their cannabis with tobacco. While they tend to smoke less than tobacco smokers, they usually inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs for longer.

Even smoking cannabis without mixing it with tobacco is potentially dangerous. This is because cannabis also contains substances that can cause cancer.

Passive smoking

Even if you do not smoke, frequent exposure to other people's tobacco smoke (passive smoking) can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Living with a smoker is estimated to increase a nonsmoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

Last reviewed: November 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 247 results

Lung Cancer - CanTeen

Lung cancer is a condition that affects the respiratory system, of which the biggest cause is smoking. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Lung Cancer - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Lung cancer is a condition that affects the respiratory system, of which the biggest cause is smoking. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Lung Cancer (Adenocarcinoma of the Lung) | myVMC

Adenocarcinoma of the lung is the most common type of lung cancer. It is caused by smoking. Symptoms include coughing and chest pain.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Lung cancer - Cancer Council Australia

What is lung cancer? Find out the symptoms, causes, treatment options and more. Get the facts from Cancer Council here.

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Lung Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lung) | myVMC

Squamous cell carcinoma of the lung is a common type of lung cancer caused by smoking and asbestos exposure. It occurs in the bronchi or airways.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Large Cell Lung Cancers - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Non-small cell lung cancers are a range of conditions that occur when cancer cells form in lung tissue. Learn more about causes and treatments.

Read more on CanTeen website

Small Cell Lung Cancer (Carcinoma of the Lung) | myVMC

Small cell lung cancer or carcinoma of the lung accounts for 18% of all lung cancers which are 20 times more common in smokers.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Small and Oat Cell Carcinoma - Information & Support - CanTeen

Small cell lung cancers occurs when cancer cells form in lung tissue and include oat cell cancers. Learn more about causes and treatments with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Lung Cancer (Large Cell Carcinoma of the Lung) | myVMC

Large cell carcinoma of the lung is a relatively uncommon type of lung cancer that is 20 times more likely in smokers and twice as likely in men.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) | myVMC

Lung cancersare one of the most common cancers worldwide

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback