Risk factors of Small cell lung cancer

Prevention of Lung Cancer, Risk Factors and Precautions

The risk factors evolve the chances of getting more prone to cancer. Different cancers possess different types of risk factors. The risk factors involve the smoking habits, age of the individuals, family history, etc. But the risk factors does not entirely reveal that the individual is suffering from the disease. Nevertheless, the individuals who have been diagnosed with the condition may have some or no risk factors. However, the risk factors make the individual more prone to the development of lung cancer.

And so, understanding the risk factors and communicating with the doctor helps the individual cope with a better lifestyle and healthcare choices. Meanwhile small cell cancer is mainly prevalent among individuals who have the habit of smoking and have a history of smoking. Although, individuals who do not have the habit of smoking are also prone to develop small cell lung cancer. Therefore it is essential for all individuals to learn more regarding the risk factors along with signs and symptoms of small cell lung cancer. Some of the factors that increase the chances of development of small cell lung cancer have been discussed below:


The smoke damages the cells within the lungs, causing abnormal growth of the cells. The significant risk towards tobacco consumption also increases the chances of cancer development among individuals who have a regular smoking habit. Approximately 80% of the deaths is due to lung cancer evolved from tobacco consumption by smoking habits—this number further increases in the case of small cell lung cancer.

Secondhand smoke

Even if the individual is not smoking and breathing in the smoke evolved from other’s cigarettes lead to increased chances of developing small cell lung cancer, which is the secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke has resulted in causing more than 7000 deaths from SCLC every year. 

Radon exposure

Exposure to radon at home is also a significant risk factor for causing small cell lung cancer among individuals. The standard decomposition of granite beneath homes produces radon gas, and when it enters the house, it becomes trapped. And so, the individuals suffering from small cell lung cancer have been reported to have high radon concentrations in their homes ​1​. The average radon concentration in homes of individuals with lung cancer has been estimated to be higher than for a control group of individuals who did not have small cell lung cancer ​2​.

Asbestos exposure

It is coupled with a doubling of the risk of small cell lung cancer among smokers. Furthermore, the association of asbestos exposure with small cell lung cancer has been observed among the never-smoking women ​3​. The individuals who never smoked and had higher than average exposure to asbestos have shown more risk (2.75 times the risk) than the regular smokers, resulting in developing small cell lung cancer.

Occupational exposure

The individuals working in blue-collar and service occupations have two to three times more risk of developing small cell lung cancer. 


The genetic mutations in small cell lung cancer have been known to be the acquired mutations that evolve the mutation received after birth in the cell becoming a cancer cell. Generally, individuals with hereditary mutations tend to show a higher risk of small cell lung cancer development. Furthermore, the individuals who have survived familial retinoblastoma are more prone to the risk of developing small cell lung cancer ​4​.

Other risk factors for small cell lung cancer

Several potential and known risk factors are also responsible for developing small cell lung cancer. Most of the research has not separated the subtypes to understand the significance of the exposures ​5​. Some other related factors are the increased risk of small cell lung cancer.

  • Air pollution
  • Comorbidities involving Hodgkin disease and breast cancer evolved from radiation therapy.
  • Some major lung-related diseases such as COPD and asthma
  • The non-lung-related medical conditions can involve rheumatoid arthritis. Some of the cases have represented that both scleroderma and interstitial pneumonitis are risk factors for small cell lung cancer in never-smokers ​6​


  1. 1.
    Rodríguez-Martínez Á, Ruano-Ravina A, Torres-Durán M, et al. Small Cell Lung Cancer. Methodology and Preliminary Results of the SMALL CELL Study. Archivos de Bronconeumología (English Edition). Published online December 2017:675-681. doi:10.1016/j.arbr.2017.10.011
  2. 2.
    Torres-Durán M, Ruano-Ravina A, Kelsey KT, et al. Small cell lung cancer in never-smokers. Eur Respir J. Published online December 23, 2015:947-953. doi:10.1183/13993003.01524-2015
  3. 3.
    Olsson AC, Vermeulen R, Schüz J, et al. Exposure–Response Analyses of Asbestos and Lung Cancer Subtypes in a Pooled Analysis of Case–Control Studies. Epidemiology. Published online March 2017:288-299. doi:10.1097/ede.0000000000000604
  4. 4.
    Kanwal M, Ding XJ, Cao Y. Familial risk for lung cancer. Oncology Letters. Published online December 20, 2016:535-542. doi:10.3892/ol.2016.5518
  5. 5.
    Cardona AF, Rojas L, Zatarain-Barrón ZL, et al. Multigene Mutation Profiling and Clinical Characteristics of Small-Cell Lung Cancer in Never-Smokers vs. Heavy Smokers (Geno1.3-CLICaP). Front Oncol. Published online April 17, 2019. doi:10.3389/fonc.2019.00254
  6. 6.
    Antony GK, Bertino E, Franklin M, Otterson GA, Dudek AZ. Small Cell Lung Cancer in Never Smokers: Report of Two Cases. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. Published online May 2010:747-748. doi:10.1097/jto.0b013e3181d6e124