Radon and Lung Cancer Risk

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
Last Modified: May 8, 2013

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Question

How is exposure to radon linked to lung cancer?

Answer

Taine Pechet, MD, Thoracic Surgeon at Penn Medicine, responds:

Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the United States according to the Surgeon General's report, distantly following tobacco exposure. Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that results from the breakdown of Uranium in the soil. Radioactive particles from this radon gas can damage cells that line the lungs and lead to lung cancer. Different areas of the country have different amounts of radon that is naturally produced, but the type of foundation in your home is also important, since some foundations are better ventilated. Radon can be detected using a detection kit available in most hardware stores. If the level is elevated, the radon can be vented by having a pipe and a fan system installed. Many areas have laws requiring radon to be checked before a house can be sold. Learn more about radon and cancer risk on OncoLink.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Focus on Lung Cancer transcript.