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Research into causes

Find out about the latest UK research into the causes and risks of lung cancer.

We know that a person’s risk of developing lung cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to certain risk factors.

Researchers continue to be interested in other reasons why lung cancer develops in some people but not others.


We know that smoking plays a big part in causing lung diseases. It’s not fully understood why some people who smoke get lung cancer and others don’t. Differences in our genes may affect how cells in our airways react to cigarette smoke.

Researchers are interested in why people smoke and how to help them give up. And they are looking at how to stop young people from taking up smoking in the first place.


A large research study across Europe is looking for links between diet and cancer. It’s called EPIC (The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer). The study is producing reports on diet and lifestyle and various cancers, including lung cancer.

The study will carry on for the next 10 to 25 years. The researchers have so far reported that eating more fruit may help to reduce the risk of getting lung cancer. But giving up smoking is by far the best way of reducing your risk.

Gene patterns

Normal cells become cancer cells because the genes inside them are damaged. In most cases of lung cancer, smoking causes this gene damage. Cancer Research UK is supporting trials looking closely at DNA patterns of people with lung cancer. They are interested to see if they can find out who might be at a higher genetic risk of developing the disease.

Scientists know that genes such as p53 and sNRSF can cause lung cancer when they are damaged. Researchers are interested in finding other genes that are involved in the development of the disease.

Gene patterns and lifestyle

Researchers are collecting information to find out more about causes of lung cancer. They are interested in the relationship between:

  • genes
  • lifestyle
  • surroundings

To look at this, they are making a store of information from over two thousand people diagnosed with lung cancer in the North West area of the UK.

Last reviewed: 
10 Jul 2016
  • Diet and cancer prevention: Contributions from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study
    CA Gonzalez and E Riboli
    European Journal of Cancer, 2010. Volume 46, Issue 14

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