For some, the month of November is synonymous with Thanksgiving and Autumn festivities. For others, November is synonymous with lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) awareness. Why? During the month of November, patients and their families, healthcare professionals and the general public raise awareness about these conditions.
This is important, as lung cancer and COPD are very destructive diseases that make everyday life difficult for millions of Americans. Also important, the role air quality plays in respiratory health, and the subsequent lung health-lung cancer-COPD relationship.
Lung Cancer Awareness Month
Lung Cancer Awareness Month provides the general public with the opportunity to learn about lung cancer, risk factors and available treatments.
According to the American Association for Cancer Research, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world. In the United States, approximately 142,000 people die from lung cancer each year.
Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer. Cigarette smoke contains more than 8,000 compounds, including but not limited to carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, acrolein and benzene. Other common lung cancer causes include exposure to secondhand smoke and a family history of lung cancer.
COPD Awareness Month
COPD Awareness Month aims to promote a better understanding of the disease in order to increase early diagnosis and treatment.
Unfortunately, this preventable disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, affecting more than 15 million people. Approximately 150,000 Americans die from COPD each year—that’s one death every four minutes.
Similar to lung cancer, smoking is the primary cause of COPD. However, 1 in 4 people with COPD have never smoked. Other prominent causes include exposure to secondhand smoke, genetic factors, respiratory infections and exposure to air pollutants.
Most people believe that the name COPD refers to just one disease, however, it refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related issues. COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and occasionally asthma.
How Does Air Quality Affect Lung Health?
Humans breathe approximately 22,000 times each day. When air is inhaled, it travels to the lungs, inflating them. When contaminated air is inhaled, it negatively impacts lung health. The relationship between air quality and lung health is that simple.
Air quality is reduced when contaminants such as ozone, radon and particulate matter are released into the air.
For example, smoking cigarettes releases VOCs into the air. Smokers directly inhale VOCs. Those nearby indirectly inhale VOCs—AKA secondhand smoke. VOCs cause lower and upper respiratory symptoms and exacerbate asthma symptoms. Moreover, the VOCs in cigarette smoke contribute significantly to one’s risk of developing lung cancer and COPD.
With this in mind, air quality, and particularly indoor air quality, should be front and center when discussing lung-related diseases. After all, lung health is critical to preventing lung cancer, COPD and related diseases. And preventative steps to ensure good respiratory health, like IAQ intervention, are beyond worth it.
Lung Health, Cancer, COPD & IAQ Relationship
Believe it or not, prioritizing indoor air quality can help prevent diseases such as lung cancer and COPD. Purification, filtration, ventilation and humidity control are excellent methods of protection against contaminants in your home.
Removing indoor air pollutants and monitoring the sources that produce them are two key components of helathy indoor air quality and, as a result, good lung health. Investing in indoor air quality has never been more important!