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4 steps to protect yourself from lung cancer

The Doctors - | 11/5/2010, 7 a.m.

USA WEEKEND Health

Almost a quarter of a million Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and more will die from it than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined, the National Cancer Institute says. You know that if you smoke, you increase your risk of lung cancer -- and, in fact, tobacco smoke causes nearly nine out of 10 cases. If you quit today, your lungs will begin to repair themselves in just two weeks; if you quit before age 50, your risk of dying in the next 15 years is cut in half. More ways to protect yourself:

Get your spouse to quit. A non-smoker who lives with a smoker has a 20% to 30% greater risk of developing lung cancer. The link between secondhand smoke and cancer is well documented. About 3,400 non-smokers die from lung cancer each year. If your spouse smokes, at minimum don't let him light up in the house; and best, help him quit (call 800-QUIT-NOW).

Eat your fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that following a mostly plant-based diet can help protect you from cancer. A new European study suggests that adding a wide variety of produce to your diet, regardless of amount, also may reduce your risk. Researchers analyzed data on more than 450,000 adults and found that eating lots of different vegetables lowers your chances of developing the disease, and adding a diverse mix of fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of squamous cell lung cancer, especially among smokers.

Test your home for radon. You can't see it, taste it or smell it, but this radioactive gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer (after smoking) and causes up to 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the USA has elevated radon levels. Home test kits cost as little as $15 and are available at some local hardware stores or through the National Safety Council (sosradon.org/test-kits). If the radon levels in your house are 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air) or higher, call your state radon office to set up an expert test (find yours at epa.gov/radon/radontest.html). Radon reduction systems can lower levels by up to 99%.

Know your family history. Studies show that if your father, mother, brother or sister had lung cancer, your risk of developing ithe disease nearly doubles. Possible reasons: Family members may share similar behaviors, such as smoking. They may live in the same place where carcinogens, such as radon, are present. They may have a genetic predisposition to the disease.

The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.