Lung cancer is the most uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lung. Normal lung tissue is made up of cells that are programmed by nature to create lungs of a certain shape and function. Sometimes the instructions to a cell go haywire and that cell and its offspring reproduce wildly, without regard for the shape and function of a lung. That wild reproduction can form tumors that clog up the lung and make it stop functioning as it should. Because of the large size of the lungs, cancer may grow for many years, undetected, without causing suspicion. In fact, lung cancer can spread outside the lungs without causing any symptoms.
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for about 15 percent of all cancer cases, or 170,000 new cases each year. At this time, over half of the lung cancer cases in the United States are in men.
But today, lung cancer will kill approximately 68,800 women in the US this year--more than breast and ovarian cancer combined. Just over the last couple of decades the numbers of lung cancer deaths for women skyrocketed to 150%, while the number of men increased by 20%. Research shows that women are approximately 1.5 times more likely to develop lung cancer than men.
Most lung cancer cases are smoking-related. Tobacco contains 4000 chemicals; many of which are proven carcinogens. Hundreds of these chemicals increase the cancer-causing power of carcinogens. Squamous cell carcinoma and small cell carcinoma are the most common types found in smokers, but adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma also are related to smoking. The U.S. Surgeon General reports that in the hospital based study, the odds for lung cancer were higher among black woman than white women at each level of tar exposure.