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Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers – An Easy Way to Lower One’s Risk

By Lee Kiedrowski, MD January 20, 2022 Posted in: Disease, Cancer Care

Tobacco use is the number one cause of lung cancer but, what about non-smokers? People who do not smoke and those who are able to stay away from second hand smoke should be good to go, right? Not completely.

There is another substance claiming the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. For this population, we need to discuss an odorless, tasteless, heavy gas that settles in the home basement, called radon.

Radon Facts

I would guess most homeowners have heard about radon, and some even have tested for it. But why should you go looking for it?

The simple, and concerning, answer is that lung cancer is deadly.

  • The estimated 5-year-survival-rate for those diagnosed with lung cancer in the USA is about 16%. Meaning, roughly 4 out of 25 people diagnosed with lung cancer will be alive 5 years later.
  • Radon kills about 21,000 Americans annually, with 2,900 of those never smoked. Again, radon is estimated the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the number two cause of lung cancer deaths.

Environmental Assessments

In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), analyzed data assessing indoor radon measurements, geology, aerial radioactivity, soil parameters, and foundation types by county and found that all counties in North Dakota were in the highest of the 3 potentially dangerous levels. With that being said, radon concentrations in homes does vary based on location, even between neighbors.

As previously mentioned, radon is found in the lower levels of your home. Due to a combination of radon’s density and the high-quality sealing of gaps in today’s new builds, the radon level in your home is even more important to discover.

To test for radon, visit your local hardware store and place the detector in your basement where it will not be disturbed for a few days and up to a year. You would be recommended to test for at least 3 month and consider testing for a few seasons as radon concentrations can vary depending on the season.

After the predetermined time frame, send the detector in the enclosed return package and wait a few days for the report. If a level above 4 pCi/L, then you should consider installing a radon mitigation system. This system includes a quiet fan and piping to continuously remove the dangerous air from the basement, out of your house, and above your roofline.

The members of your house who are at risk from high levels of radon are those who spend time in the lower levels of the home sleeping, working, playing, etc. Those who live in the upper levels are at lower risk from radon.

Remember, this number two cause of lung cancer deaths can easily be pumped out of your house with a simple test and install by a professional company found in southwest North Dakota.

Lee Kiedrowski, MD
Lee Kiedrowski, MD

Dr. Lee Kiedrowski is a native of Dickinson, ND, and practices Family Medicine at CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson Medical Clinic. To reach Dr. Kiedrowski or to schedule an appointment, call 701-456-4200. Learn more about Dr. Kiedrowski.

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