Is Lung Cancer Hereditary? All You Need to Know

Scientifically, cancer refers to the abnormal cell growth that occurs in the body. While the cause may be genetic or environmental factors, there are various treatments available today based on the types of cancer.

What Is Cancer?

This refers to a large family of diseases that are characterized by the body’s aberrant cells increasing and spreading out of control. The normal functions of surrounding tissues and organs may be disrupted by these aberrant cells forming tumors or invading them.

Benign tumors do not pose a threat to life or spread to other parts of the body, unlike malignant tumors. On the other hand, malignant tumors are carcinogenic and can invade neighboring tissues. They can be distributed via the lymphatic and blood systems to other parts of the body. This phenomenon is referred to as metastasis.


Types of Cancer

Cancer may appear in various ways and affect almost any part of the body. There are over a hundred distinct forms of cancer, and each has unique traits and behaviors; some common ones are colorectal, lung, prostate, and breast cancer.

The major types of cancers are-


Carcinoma are the most frequently identified cancers that originate in the pancreas, lungs, skin, breasts, and other organs and glands.


Lymphoma is the cancer of lymphocytes.


Leukemia is a blood cancer that doesn’t usually form solid tumors.


Sarcomas may arise in the body’s soft or connective tissues, such as cartilage, blood vessels, muscle, bone, or fat. They are comparatively rare.


Melanoma cancers arise in the cells that make the pigment in the skin.

Sources of Cancer

Various sources and risk factors contribute to the development of cancer, such as:

Genetic Factors-

Family History-

A family history of a particular cancer may also raise an individual’s risk. If several close relatives have experienced cancer, this might indicate a hereditary tendency.

Inherited Mutations-

Certain genetic mutations can be inherited by some people, increasing their susceptibility to certain cancers. For instance, a higher risk of ovarian and breast cancer is linked to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

Some other inherited cancers that are caused by the mutation in genes are colon, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke/Pixabay

Environmental Factors-


Certain jobs may expose workers to substances that cause cancer. Workers in the construction industry, for instance, may be exposed to asbestos, which raises the risk of mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Physical Agents

Prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun or ionizing radiation may increase the risk of cancer, including melanoma.

Chemical Agents

The substance that causes cancer is called a carcinogenic substance. These substances include tobacco smoke, asbestos, radon, and certain chemicals.

harmful gases
Hilary Clark/Pixabay


Tobacco use & alcohol consumption

Several cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, bladder, and lungs, are primarily brought on by smoking tobacco products, such as cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Additionally, an increased risk of various cancers, such as those of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver, is linked to excessive alcohol consumption.

tobacco and alcohol


Certain cancers may become more likely in a diet heavy in processed foods, red and processed meats, and low in fruits and vegetables. Moreover, obesity raises the risk of developing several cancer types.

Infectious Agent

Certain cancers have been linked to certain viruses and bacteria. For instance, the hepatitis B and C viruses can raise the risk of liver cancer, while the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical and other cancers.

Hormonal Imbalance

Certain cancers may become more likely as a result of hormonal imbalances or long-term hormone replacement treatment. For example, for women, exposure to estrogen has been associated with a higher risk of uterine and breast cancer.

What is Hereditary Disease?

These diseases are passed down from one generation to the next through genetic material, i.e., DNA, of individual parents. Genes that are altered or mutated and found in an individual’s DNA cause these diseases. Some examples include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, congenital deafness and certain types of cancers.

Understanding the genetic foundation of inherited illnesses is essential for genetic guidance, diagnosis, and possibly creating therapies or measures to control or lessen their impacts.

hereditary diseases
Gordon Johnson/Pixabay

Causes of Hereditary Diseases-

There are four major causes of hereditary diseases-

Mutations in Single Gene-

Single-gene mutations are the cause of a large number of hereditary diseases. These mutations fall into several categories:

X-Linked Inheritance-

Genes on the X chromosome are associated with certain hereditary diseases. These diseases primarily affect males because they have one X chromosome, while females have two. Haemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy are two examples.

Autosomal Dominant Inheritance-

In this instance, the disease can be caused by a single mutated copy of the gene. A 50% chance of the mutated gene being passed on to the offspring exists if one parent carries it. Marfan syndrome and Huntington’s disease are two examples.

Autosomal Recessive Inheritance-

Mutations in both copies of a particular gene cause these diseases. Parents who carry the mutated gene usually don’t show any symptoms. Each parent passes on one mutated gene to their offspring. Sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis are two examples.

Polygenic Inheritance-

Several genes work together to cause certain hereditary diseases. Environmental factors, which typically have a more intricate inheritance pattern, may impact these conditions. Type 2 diabetes and certain types of heart disease are two examples.

Mitochondrial DNA Mutations-

DNA found in mitochondria is inherited only from the mother. Diseases that impact a cell’s mitochondria, or energy-producing organelles, can result from mutations in the mitochondrial DNA. Some types of mitochondrial myopathy and Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) are two examples.


Spontaneous Mutation-

Many hereditary diseases are inherited, but spontaneous or novel gene mutations bring some on in an individual. These de-novo mutations, which are not inherited from parents, can result in disorders like specific forms of autism or achondroplasia, a kind of dwarfism.

Treatment of Hereditary Diseases

Hereditary diseases have various treatments depending upon the specific disorders; in many cases, the genetic disorders are managed rather than cured. Some treatment strategies are-

Pharmacological Treatment

Drugs may help in controlling the signs and consequences of several genetic diseases. For example, patients with genetic cardiovascular conditions may be prescribed blood pressure or cholesterol control medications.

Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation

Bone marrow or stem cell transplantation can replace damaged blood-forming cells with healthy ones in diseases like sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, possibly curing the illness.

Gene Therapy

Gene therapy aims to treat genetic disorders by inserting a healthy copy of the damaged gene or altering the existing gene. For many diseases, this approach is still in the experimental stages; however, in some cases, such as spinal muscular atrophy and some forms of inherited retinal diseases, it has demonstrated promise.

gene therapy
Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

Enzyme Replacement Therapy

Certain genetic disorders, such as Fabry disease and Gaucher disease, are caused by an enzyme deficiency. Intravenous infusions of the absent enzyme are used in enzyme replacement therapy (ERT), which aims to reduce symptoms and delay the course of the illness.

Management of Symptoms

This strategy aims to improve the quality of life and reduce symptoms for people with genetic disorders. Medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy may be used to address particular symptoms like pain, seizures, muscle weakness, or cognitive decline.

It’s crucial to consult medical experts and genetic specialists, as they can offer specialized advice and treatment programs tailored to the particular genetic condition.

cancer symptoms
Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

Is Lung Cancer Hereditary

Generally, lung cancer is not exclusively genetic in nature. The majority of lung cancer cases are brought on by environmental factors, mainly exposure to tobacco smoke, which includes both secondhand smoke exposure and active smoking. Other factors, including exposure to radon gas, asbestos, air pollution, and workplace hazards also influence lung cancer risk.

Lung cancer may occasionally run in families, indicating a possible inherited component. Even though lifestyle and environmental factors still have a significant impact on an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer, some people may be genetically predisposed to the disease more than others. Certain individuals may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of tobacco smoke or other carcinogens due to these genetic factors.

Why is Lung Cancer Hereditary

Although there may be a genetic component to lung cancer, environmental factors are the main cause of the disease. The majority of occurrences of lung cancer are caused by smoking, being around secondhand smoke and other carcinogens.

Even though Mendelian genetics do not directly cause the majority of lung cancer occurrences, there are genetic factors that can affect a person’s vulnerability to the disease. In addition, a family history of lung cancer may increase one’s risk. Due to shared genetic and environmental variables, the chance of developing lung cancer may be somewhat improved if one has a first-degree family (parent, sibling, or child) who has had the disease.

Affects of Lung Cancer on Different Parts of Body

Lung cancer affects several parts of the body like Lymph nodes, the brain, the liver, adrenal glands and other parts of the lungs. Additionally, having a cancer diagnosis can have social and emotional repercussions. This could be controlling your stress level or addressing a range of feelings, including grief, anxiety, or rage.  

body organs
Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Prevention of Lung Cancer

Some strategies to prevent lung cancer are-

Quit Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke-

The most crucial thing you can do to lower your risk of lung cancer if you smoke is to stop. It’s never too late to give up; the sooner you do so, the lower your danger. And refrain from being around smokers to prevent being exposed to secondhand smoke. Urge friends and family to give up smoking as well.

Limit Carcinogenic Exposure-

Exercise caution when exposed to environmental contaminants, such as industrial chemicals and air pollution, that can raise your risk of lung cancer. When feasible, stay away from contaminated locations and use air purifiers.

Nutrition & Diet

Consuming many fruits and vegetables, significantly those rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants may help lower the risk of cancer. An immune system and general health can both be strengthened by a nutritious diet.

Early Detection

Consult your healthcare provider about lung cancer screening options, such as low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans, if you are at high risk for the disease because of things like a family history of the disease. These tests can help detect cancer in its early, more treatable stages.

Radon Gas Testing

Colorless and odorless, radon gas can seep through the floor into homes. It is known to cause lung cancer. Check for radon in your house and take action to lower levels if needed.

Treatment of Lung Cancer

The type and stage of lung cancer, along with the patient’s preferences and general health, all influence the course of treatment. Some treatment options are-

Radiation Therapy

High-energy X-rays or other particles are used in radiation therapy to target and kill cancer cells. For cases of lung cancer that are more advanced, it can be used in conjunction with other treatments or as the only treatment for early-stage lung cancer. In order to reduce symptoms, it can also be applied in palliative care.


Drugs are used in chemotherapy to either kill or stop the growth of cancer cells. It can be used in conjunction with radiation therapy or other targeted therapies, either before or after surgery. Chemotherapy is frequently used to treat advanced-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and SCLC.

chemotherapy drugs

Targeted Therapy

Drugs used in targeted therapy are made to specifically target genetic mutations or changes that are present in certain lung cancer cells. These particular mutations enable the drugs to stop the growth and metastasis of cancer cells. EGFR inhibitors, ALK inhibitors, and ROS1 inhibitors are among the examples.

With the help of Surgery

For non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in its early stages, surgery is frequently the main course of treatment. Either the tumor or a section of the lung (lobectomy or wedge resection) may need to be removed. Sometimes, a lymphadenectomy (removal of the lymph nodes) is also necessary. Robot-assisted surgery and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) are two popular minimally invasive surgical methods.


In conclusion, although lung cancer has a genetic component, it is not usually regarded as a hereditary disease in the same sense that diseases like cystic fibrosis are inherited in a clear-cut manner. Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer, with environmental factors accounting for the majority of cases.

Despite a person’s family history may influence their risk of developing lung cancer, it does not ensure that they will have the illness. Because of similar genetic and environmental factors, there may be a slight increase in risk if one’s first-degree relative has lung cancer.

In the end, quitting smoking and limiting your exposure to other known carcinogens is the most efficient strategy to prevent lung cancer.

Last Updated on December 19, 2023 by