Saturday, August 1, is World Lung Cancer Day, an ideal time to celebrate survivors, call attention to the need for more research funding, and raise awareness about the impact of this disease.

There’s a lot to be optimistic about. The number of new lung cancer cases in the U.S. continues to drop. Fewer people are smoking, which obviously plays a critical role. And lung cancer deaths are also declining, thanks to the decrease in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment.

We’re making breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genetic research and better-targeted drugs. We are optimistic that a cure is within our grasp.

Yet, lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined, but receives only a 10th of the research dollars. And the 228,000 estimated new lung cancer cases in the U.S. for 2020 are still far too many.

Lung cancer has long been stereotyped as a smoker’s disease but as a medical oncologist specializing in lung cancer, I’m here to dispel that myth. You may be surprised to learn that nearly 80 percent of patients with lung cancer are not active smokers. (About 60 percent have quit; 15 percent never started).

In fact, the truth is that anyone with lungs can develop lung cancer. We’ve seen patients in their 30s and 40s who have never smoked who have been diagnosed with this disease.

The major risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Smoking – far and away the No. 1 risk factor
  • Having other lung diseases
  • Exposure to toxic materials like radon or asbestos.

Dr. Tingting Tan

Most lung cancers do not cause symptoms until the disease has spread but some people with early lung cancer do have symptoms.

Symptoms of lung cancer can include a persistent cough, shortness of breath and loss of appetite.

Consult with your doctor if you have these symptoms. If you need expert lung cancer care or a second opinion, know City of Hope Newport Beach is here for you.

So, on this World Lung Cancer Day, take a moment to appreciate your lungs and all they do for you. Stop smoking, and if you don’t smoke, don’t start. Safely continue all of your checkups and screenings. And breathe easier by living a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet and regular exercise.

Tingting Tan, M.D., Ph.D., is a thoracic cancer specialist at City of Hope Newport Beach, a safe place to receive world-class cancer care. Visit cityofhope.org/OC for more information.