Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the UK, with 46,700 new cases each year. Not only is it common, but it is also one of the most preventable. Lung Cancer Awareness Month has been taking place throughout November, encouraging people to talk about spotting the signs of lung cancer and what action people can take to prevent it.

Lung cancer in the UK

There are currently 85,000 people living with a lung cancer diagnosis in the UK. It remains the third most common type of cancer, despite overall cases dropping by 8% since the 1990s. However, there has been an increase of 3% in the last ten years. In women, the number has increased by almost 6%. The survival rate has remained largely the same as it was 40 years ago – making it the most common cause of cancer death.

Efforts from charities such as the British Lung Foundation are aiming to raise awareness of lung cancer and educate people on how they can prevent it. By keeping an eye out for the signs of lung cancer, it’s hoped that it can be caught sooner, and become more preventable with the right education on lung cancer causes.

Spotting the signs of lung cancer

While lung cancer symptoms might not be apparent in the early stages of lung cancer, there are signs that you can look out for – particularly if they’re persistent and won’t go away. Some key things to look out for include:

  • A cough that lasts for longer than two/three weeks
  • A persistent cough that worsens over time
  • Regular bouts of chest infections
  • Coughing up blood
  • Feeling chest pain while coughing or breathing
  • Regularly feeling breathless
  • A lack of energy or persistent tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss or a lack of appetite

Some other less common signs of lung cancer, include:

  • Your fingers becoming larger at the ends or even becoming curved
  • A fever of over 38C
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • Developing a persistent hoarse voice
  • Ongoing shoulder or chest pain

It’s good to familiarise yourself with both the common and less-common signs of lung cancer to identify any changes in your own health or those of others who could be at risk.

If you’re concerned about your symptoms, then it’s important to make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. In the winter, it can be especially difficult to differentiate lung cancer symptoms from a cough, cold or flu – but if your symptoms are persistent or they get worse then an appointment with your doctor can help put your mind at ease and make sure you get the treatment you need.

What are the causes of lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the most preventable type of cancer, with many lifestyle factors putting people at higher risk of developing the disease. Some of the most common preventable causes of lung cancer include:


Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for around 85% of cases. When you smoke tobacco, you inhale more than 60 different types of toxins, which are known to be carcinogenic and therefore could lead to lung cancer. The more you smoke, the higher the risk and you could also be increasing your risk of developing other cancers by smoking regularly.

Passive smoking

Even if you’re not a smoker yourself, you could still develop lung cancer as a result of passive smoking. Exposure to tobacco smoke can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, particularly if you share a home with a smoker.

Radon gas

Radon is a form of radioactive gas that is found naturally within the uranium found in rocks and soil. Breathing in radon gas could lead you to develop lung cancer, and it currently accounts for around 3% of cases.

Work-related exposure and pollution

Some work environments can lead to exposure to different chemicals and gases that could lead to lung cancer. These include arsenic, asbestos, coal fumes, silica and nickel.

Taking steps to prevent lung cancer

The majority of lung cancer incidents are preventable, and there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk and ensure an overall healthier lifestyle. Some of the things you can do include:

Don’t smoke

As the leading cause of lung cancer, not smoking can hugely reduce your risk of developing the disease. Even if you’re an existing smoker, giving up now will reduce your chances of developing lung cancer in later life. There are many benefits associated with giving up smoking including improving your lung capacity and helping to prevent the signs of ageing.

Avoid being around those who smoke

To avoid developing lung cancer as a result of passive smoking, taking yourself out of situations where smoking is happening will benefit you. This has become even easier since the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007, which has prevented people from smoking in enclosed work spaces – including restaurants, bars and clubs.

Wear adequate protection in the workplace

If you work in an environment where harmful toxins could be present, then wearing adequate protection is a must. Your employer has a duty to enforce health and safety guidelines, but it’s also important that you equip yourself with the right knowledge and equipment to protect your lungs.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise is important for your health. Cardiovascular exercise, in particular, is beneficial for your lungs and heart and will help you to stay fit as you get older. Aim to complete 30 minutes of moderate activity a day to get your heart rate going and to help you maintain a healthy weight.

Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet is also important for reducing your risk of developing all types of cancers and other serious health conditions. A diet that is low in saturated fats, salt and sugar and one that contains a healthy balance of protein, fibre, fruit and vegetables can all help to reduce your risk. Obesity is known for being the cause of many health conditions, making maintaining a healthy weight an essential part of maintaining a fitter and healthy you.

While you can take steps to prevent lung cancer, it’s not always easy to prepare for the unexpected. To give you and your family the best protection in the future, make sure you’ve got the right life and critical illness insurance. With the right protection in place, you can be safe in the knowledge that you will be protected in the future, whatever might happen. Get your quote from ESMI and get covered today.

Be sure to spread the word about the signs of lung cancer and how to prevent it. You could help to reduce the number of people affected by lung cancer each year.