Lung cancer can be broken down into two types; small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer. SCLC accounts for approximately 20% of all lung cancers. It is often referred to as oat cell carcinoma because the small cells of the lung have a similar appearance to oats. SCLC develops when there is a rapid and uncontrollable growth in the small cells of the lung that eventually leads to a malignant (cancerous) tumour forming. In this article I will be discussing four risk factors that can contribute to the development of this cancer.
1) SMOKING:- Tobacco smoke is the leading risk factor for all types of lung cancer. It is strongly linked with SCLC and is believed to be responsible for over 90% of cases. Even if you do not smoke personally being around others that do can significantly increase your risk of contracting this type of cancer.
The reason that tobacco smoke is such a strong risk factor for SCLC is that it is full of carcinogens (cancer causing substances). According to Cancer Research UK tobacco smoke can contain up to 70 different carcinogens. These carcinogens have been scientifically proven to damage DNA and alter important genes which can then cause your body’s cells to multiply in a rapid and uncontrollable way. When you inhale tobacco smoke (either directly through a cigarette or indirectly through second hand smoke) these carcinogens go straight to your lungs greatly improving the risk of lung cancer and SCLC developing.
2) URANIUM:- Exposure to uranium is thought to increase your risk of developing all types of lung cancer. However, it is most strongly linked with the development of SCLC. A combination of uranium exposure and exposure to tobacco smoke increases your chances of developing SCLC even further.
The reason uranium increases your risk of contracting SCLC is that uranium ores are radioactive. Radon (a gas that is created when uranium breaks down) is also highly radioactive. Research has shown that prolonged exposure to radioactive materials can cause cancer. When people are exposed to uranium it is often inhaled meaning that the radioactive materials are carried directly to the lungs. These radioactive materials can then cause cancerous growth in the small cells of the lungs.
3) ASBESTOS:- Asbestos is most strongly linked with a rare kind of cancer called mesothelioma. However, it has also been linked with increasing the risk for other types of lung cancer including SCLC. Asbestos exposure combined with tobacco smoke greatly increases your small cell lung cancer risk.
The reason asbestos increases your chances of developing SCLC is that when it becomes disturbed very fine fibres are released. These fibres irritate the body’s cells and can lead to the development of cancer. If they become lodged in the small cells of the lung they can stimulate the development of SCLC.
4) POOR DIET:- According to Cancer Research UK not getting enough fruit and vegetables in your diet can increase your risk of developing SCLC. The reason for this is that both fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, anti-oxidants and other chemicals that help prevent cell damage. If you are deficient in any of these then the small cells of your lung may be more susceptible to cancer.
SCLC is not a pleasant condition. However, unlike many other types of cancer where the risk factors are unclear, SCLC has a number of very definite risk factors. In particular smoking has been scientifically proven to significantly increase your small cell lung cancer risk. You can have a direct impact on your chances of getting this cancer. I hope this article has helped you see that.
Whilst every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative, it is intended for general information only. Small cell lung cancer is a very serious, life threatening condition and you should discuss any concerns, treatments or lifestyle changes fully with your doctor.