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Radon and Cigarettes: A Lethal Lung Cancer Causing Mix

Radon shown to exacerbate lung cancer risks in smokers and non-smokers.

As available information about radon has increased, people have become more aware of a greater risk of lung cancer. Radon exposure significantly increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers and those affected by second hand smoke. Studies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the Environmental Protection Agency and other medical researchers have documented higher death rates among smokers who have contracted radon-induced lung cancer. Studies show that radon exposure of 1.3 picocuries (pCi/L) accounts for about 62 lung cancer deaths out of 1,000 smokers and former smokers. That’s 20,000 deaths a year.

Radon exposure also correlates to increased risk of lung cancer people who have never smoked; 7 in 1,000—higher even than secondhand smoke, the third major cause of lung cancer, leading to approximately 3,000 deaths annually. In addition, secondhand smoke heavily impacts children’s health: asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and possibly even ear infections.

The EPA recommends correcting residential radon levels of 4 pCi/L (picocuries) and higher to 2pCi/L. Testing for radon is easy and mitigation measures are relatively inexpensive. While it is difficult to reduce levels below 2pCi/L, you can further reduce your risk of lung cancer if you stop smoking.

As with any addiction, stopping smoking is seldom easy. The good news is that there is plenty of help available if you are committed to quitting. Beyond sheer determination, medication and counseling can be effective tools in the battle to not smoke. In descending order of effectiveness, these smoking cessation aids—sometimes alone, sometimes in combination—can help you resist the urge to light up.

Best results

  • Newer medications, such as Chantix®
  • Nicotine gums, patches, lozenges, inhalers and nasal sprays

Good results

  • Other medications, such as Wellbutrin® or Zyban®
  • Counseling/support, in-person one-on-one or group
  • Hotlines
  • A combination of medications

Less effective

  • Self-help guides, online programs, other materials
  • Laser Therapy
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture

Each aid or technique has its fans and you’ll hear about them from people who used them to stop smoking. The decision about the amount of support and kind of help you want is yours; what works for one, may not work well for you.

And, if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Many former smokers made more than one attempt to quit before they were successful. The single, most powerful indicator of success is your level of determination to quit. Look forward to the day you can say: “I don’t smoke.”