Reducing your risk of lung cancer

About 11,000 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. It accounts for close to 9%  of all cancers diagnosed. More men than women develop lung cancer. The risk of being diagnosed before the age of 85 is 1 in 13 for men and 1 in 22 for women. The average age at diagnosis is 71.

Smoking causes almost 9 out 10 cases of lung cancers, although some people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Exposure to other people’s smoke (passive smoking) also increases the risk of lung cancer.

Other risk factors include: being over 60; having a family history of lung cancer or a personal history of lung disease, such as chronic bronchitis; and exposure to substances or particles such as asbestos, coal gas and radiation.

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your lung cancer risk.

Finding lung cancer early

Lung cancer can be difficult to diagnose at an early stage. Sometimes there are no symptoms and the cancer is detected during routine tests, such as an x-ray or CT scan.

Whether you smoke or not, see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • a persistent cough (lasting longer than 3 weeks)
  • a change in a cough
  • coughing up

Having any one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have lung cancer.

Smoking and cancer

Smoking increases the risk of developing 16 different types of cancer.

Women who smoke are more likely to experience painful periods, problems conceiving, early menopause and osteoporosis. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of having low birth-weight babies and babies who are premature, stillborn or who die shortly after birth.

Quitting can be difficult, so speak to your doctor, call the Quitline on 13 7848, or visit

This information was last reviewed in December 2015