ATLANTA – Lung cancer is the leading form of cancer death in the United States, and you don’t have to be a smoker to be at risk.

Why?

Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer, but twenty-percent of the people who die from lung cancer each year have never smoked or used any other form of tobacco.

The leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers is radon gas. Although it’s not in the news as much as it once was, breathing radon is still quite a health risk.

Radon comes from natural uranium deposits decaying in the soil. Although harmless in small doses, it causes a gas that collects in the lower portions of a home. Radon has caused, on average, 20,000 deaths from lung cancer each year.

Second-hand smoke continues to be an issue. The risk comes from being around a chain smoker at home or work.

“We’ve seen smoke free policies in various states already showing lower incidents of lung cancer,” says Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, Deputy Director of the Winship Cancer Center at Emory.

The workplace can expose you to carcinogens like diesel exhaust or asbestos. The banning of asbestos in many products has lowered the risk.

Air pollution is also a factor, although the risk in the United States is far lower than in other countries.

Physicians say by avoiding tobacco, non-smokers have taken the most important step toward avoiding lung cancer. Having their homes tested for radon gas is the best next step.