New York State Department of Health Recognizes Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Urges New Yorkers to Learn More about Risk Factors and How to Reduce the Risk

Adults Over Age 50 Who Smoke or Used to Smoke Should Talk with Their Health Care Provider about Lung Cancer Screening

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 17, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November by urging New Yorkers to take steps to lower their risk of developing lung cancer, which is one of the most common cancers and the leading cause of cancer deaths in New York. To detect lung cancer early when it is more likely to be curable, the Department also urges adults aged 50 to 80 who smoke, or who used to smoke, to talk with their healthcare provider about lung cancer screening.

"It's easy to take your lungs, and the ability to take a deep breath, for granted, but that can disappear and leave you gasping for air and worse, if you develop lung cancer," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Smoking is the biggest threat to your lungs and your ability to breathe normally. I urge all New Yorkers who smoke to try to quit not only for their own health, but that of the people they care about, who are also at risk for lung cancer from exposure to second-hand smoke. And if you are over 50 and smoke or used to, discuss lung cancer screening with your health care provider so treatment can begin as soon as possible to ensure the best possible outcome."

According to the latest statistics, lung cancer claims about 7,400 lives across New York each year. Lung cancer rates are highest among men, and specifically non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black men. For women, lung cancer rates are highest among non-Hispanic White women.

While smoking is the major cause of lung cancer, there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing lung cancer. They include:

  • Second-hand smoke. Exposure to other people's cigarettes increases the risk of getting lung cancer.
  • Radon gas. Exposure to radon gas has been estimated to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and that risk increases for those who smoke.
  • Asbestos in the workplace. People exposed to high levels of asbestos on the job, such as shipbuilders and pipefitters, have an increased risk of lung cancer. That risk is higher among workers who smoke.
  • Ionizing Radiation. Exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation, such as radiation treatments for other cancers, increases the risk of lung cancer.
  • Personal history. People who have had lung cancer are at increased risk of developing it again.
  • Family history. People with a close relative who had lung cancer may have an increased risk for the disease, even if they do not smoke.
  • Other lung diseases. People with a history of certain other diseases of the lung, such as tuberculosis (TB), are at increased risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Other workplace exposures. Other chemicals or substances that may be found at high levels in certain workplaces have been identified as risk factors. These include arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, vinyl chloride, nickel compounds, chromium compounds, coal products, tars and soot, chloromethyl ethers and diesel exhaust.

There are steps to take that may help reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. These steps include:

  • The most important thing you can do to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke. If you currently smoke, it's never too late to quit. Talk to your doctor to develop a quit plan, and then contact the NYS Smoker's Quitline for quitting support. Medications and counseling double the chances of success. Eligible New Yorkers who smoke cigarettes or vape nicotine can receive free starter kits of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). The New York State Smokers' Quitline provides information, printed materials, and expert coaching by phone, text, or online chat. For more information about the NY Quitline's free services, including the Learn2QuitNY text program, Quit Coach Chat, and resources for healthcare professionals, call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487), text QUITNOW to 333888, or visit
  • Avoid exposure to indoor and outdoor second-hand smoke. The Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities program works with communities across the State to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke in outdoor spaces and multi-unit housing. Learn more at Tobacco-Free NYS.
  • Have your home tested for radon, especially if you live in a high radon area. If radon levels in your home are high, make the necessary modifications. For more information on radon visit the Department's radon website or call 1-800-458-1158.
  • Be aware of workplace health and safety rules and follow them.
  • Discuss the risks and benefits of medical imaging, such as CT scans, with a health care provider to avoid unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation. This is particularly important for children.
  • Be aware of family history and discuss any concerns with a health care provider.

Some people with lung cancer may not have any signs or symptoms. There is a screening test that can detect lung cancer before symptoms occur, when it may be easier to treat. Lung cancer screening is recommended for adults at high risk of getting lung cancer due to their smoking history and age, and other factors. Talk to your health care provider to learn if lung cancer screening is right for you and where to get it. In New York State, Medicaid and most health insurance plans cover yearly lung cancer screening for persons who qualify for it.

Medical counseling and prescribed medications to help quit smoking are also covered by Medicaid and most health insurance plans. Check with your health insurance provider to learn if you are covered. If you do not have insurance, learn about low or no-cost New York State programs that you may be eligible for:

Additional information about lung cancer is available from these sources: