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Home > Resources > PAF Publications > PAF Guides & Major Publications > A Healthier African Am Community > Cancers > Lung Cancer

African Americans and Lung Cancer
Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is the second most common cancer among African American men and women. African Americans are more likely to develop and die from lung cancer than persons of any other racial or ethnic group. Most lung cancers are caused by tobacco use. The reason for higher lung cancer incidence rates among African Americans remains unclear, but racial differences in smoking habits, a tendency to smoke menthol cigarettes, genetics (how the body processes tobacco) and other factors such as diet, occupation, socioeconomic status and delays in access to care and treatment, may all play an important role.

Signs and Symptoms:
  • Persistent cough
  • Constant chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Recurring pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling and redness of the neck or face
  • Loss of appetite and loss of weight

If you have any of these symptoms longer than two weeks, see your health care provider right away. These symptoms could be the first warning of a lung cancer. Many of these symptoms can also result from other causes. You need to be evaluated to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Risk Factors:
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Occupations with exposure to hazardous agents like arsenic, radon and asbestos
  • Exposure to chemical products
  • Radiation exposure
  • Exposure to air pollution
  • Tuberculosis


Prevention/Best Defense
  • If you don’t smoke, don’t start
  • If you do smoke, quit. Quitting smoking decreases the risk of lung and other cancers, heart attack, stroke and chronic lung disease
  • Avoid second hand smoke if at all possible
  • Never expose children to second-hand smoke
  • Prolonged exposure can interfere with normal lung development and increases the risk of developing respiratory illnesses such as asthma
  • In the workplace, follow work and safety guidelines to reduce your exposure to hazardous chemicals and second hand smoke