How Common is Lung Adenocarcinoma?

Lung adenocarcinoma is a type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that occurs when abnormal lung cells chaotically multiply to form a tumor. Untreated, these tumor cells can metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes around and in-between the lungs, the liver, brain, bones and adrenal glands.[1]

Lung Adenocarcinoma vs Other Types of Lung Cancer

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer. Although it’s generally more prevalent in smokers, it’s the most common type of lung cancer found in non-smokers, as well. It’s also the most common type of lung cancer found in women and people under the age of 45. Compared to other types of lung cancer, lung adenocarcinoma is usually localized in one area which makes its response to lung cancer treatment more favorable than other lung cancers.1

Who’s at Risk?

Similar to other forms of lung cancer, your risk of developing lung adenocarcinoma increases if you:1

  • Are a smoker. By far, cigarette smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. Compared to non-smokers, smokers are 13 times more likely to develop lung cancer. And, smoking a cigar or pipe is almost as likely to cause lung cancer as smoking cigarettes.
  • Breathe in secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke, which includes smoke from cigarettes, cigars or pipes, also increases your risk for lung cancer.
  • Have been exposed to radon gas. You may not be aware of it, but radon gas – a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas found in the ground – can seep through the lower floors in your home and other buildings and can also contaminate your drinking water. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Although the role radon gas exposure plays in lung cancer rates among non-smokers is unclear, radon exposure is linked to increased risks of lung cancer in smokers and in those who regularly breathe in the gas (miners). If you’d like to test the radon levels in your home, you can purchase a radon testing kit on Amazon.
  • Have been exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring silica compounds that have been frequently used in a variety of building materials for insulation. The material has also been used as a fire retardant and in brake pads for your car and is most commonly found in older homes. People exposed to asbestos on the job or who live or work in deteriorating buildings with asbestos-containing materials have a higher risk of lung cancer. Asbestos exposure is also linked to mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer that starts in the tissues surrounding the lungs.
  • Are exposed to other cancer-causing agents on the job. These include uranium, arsenic, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline, and diesel exhaust.

Reducing Your Risk

lung adenocarcinomaReducing risk factors associated with lung adenocarcinoma may help prevent it. To follow are some handy prevention tips:[2]

  • Don’t Smoke — If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you’re a smoker, talk to your primary care provider about quitting. Studies suggest that using smoking cessation medications when you’re trying to quit can double your rate of abstinence. Using more than one type of nicotine replacement therapy along with bupropion (Wellbutrin) provides an additional benefit. But remember, medications for smoking cessation aren’t for everyone. Be sure to talk to your doctor to determine which smoking cessation method is right for you.
  • Shun secondhand smoke – Enforce healthy, smoke-free habits in your home. For example, place non-smoking signs in and around your home. Remove ash trays from inside your home and ask guests to smoke outside. Choose smoke-free restaurants and ask for non-smoking rooms in hotels.
  • Reduce radon exposure – Have your home and drinking water (if you have a well) tested for radon. Remember, you can purchase an inexpensive do-it-yourself kit on Amazon.
  • Reduce asbestos exposure – Because there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, any level is considered to be too much. If you live in an older building, insulation and other asbestos-containing materials must not be exposed or deteriorating. If they are, they must be professionally sealed or removed. If you work around asbestos-containing material, you should avoid bringing asbestos dust home on your clothing by keeping a spare set of clothes at work and changing your work clothes before you go home.

Who Should get Annual Lung Cancer Screening?

Annual lung cancer screening is recommended for adults ages 55 to 80 who:1

  • Have a 30 pack-year smoking history.
  • Are current smokers or who have quit within the last 15 years.
  • Are physically healthy enough to undergo surgery for lung cancer.

For more information about lung adenocarcinoma or smoking cessation, talk to your primary care provider.

[1] Harvard Health Publications. Adenocarcinoma of the lung. Accessed January 28, 2018.
[2] Larzelere MM1 & Williams DE. Promoting smoking cessation. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Mar 15;85(6):591-8.


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