Causes and prevention of lung cancer

Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer. Not smoking or quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to avoid getting lung cancer. Stopping smoking is the best decision you can make to improve your health and well being.

Find out how you can reduce your risk of cancer by quitting smoking, and get tips on how to quit.

The main causes of lung cancer include:

  • Cigarettes: Most lung cancers (90 to 95%) are due to smoking. The risk of getting lung cancer is directly linked to the number of cigarettes you smoke every day and the years you spend smoking.
  • Pipes/cigars: If you smoke cigars or pipes, you have a lower risk than cigarette smokers, but you are still at a higher risk than non-smokers.
  • Low tar cigarettes: If you smoke low tar cigarettes, you do not have a lower risk, as these smokers tend to inhale quite deeply.
  • Cannabis: It is believed that cannabis smoking can do the same damage to the lungs as cigarette smoking.
  • Passive smoking: This also increases your risk of developing lung cancer, although not as much as a smoker.
  • Asbestos exposure: Being exposed to asbestos over a long time can cause mesothelioma. This is a cancer of the lining of the lungs. 

    Other chemicals are also thought to put workers at a higher risk. If you would like more information, download our Mesothelioma and Asbestos Factsheet (PDF, 420KB). You can also visit our page on mesothelioma and asbestos

  • Radon: Radon is a gas found normally in the soil. Being exposed to high levels of radon has been linked to lung cancer. For more information, please visit

For more information on how to look after your lungs, download our magazine Look After Your Lungs (PDF, 3.83MB).

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm