Everyday Diet Choices Impact Lung Cancer Risk Far Greater Than Americans Suspect

Everyday Diet Choices Impact Lung Cancer Risk Far Greater Than Americans Suspect


November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. In this year alone, it is estimated that 23,740 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed and 130,180 lung cancer deaths will occur in the United States.1

Cancer research has grown and expanded substantially in the past few decades, allowing researchers across the country to provide greater insight into how and why cancer moves and grows throughout the body. These advances not only help patients currently battling cancer gain a deeper understanding into their specific subtype but also provide information and insight to those looking to lower their risk of developing cancer in their lifetime. Among the general population, however, these insights into cancer risk reduction are less sought after than expected.

For example, growing evidence ties lung cancer risk to everyday diet choices made across various populations in the United States. As cited in the 2022 Lung Health Barometer, “about 73% of adults have not spoken with their doctor about their risk for lung cancer, and only 40% are concerned they might get the disease.”2 The influx of research on lung cancer prevention and care means physicians can work to intertwine this information into patient conversations to help increase lung cancer awareness—and potentially lessen its burden on society.2

According to a recent study from Vanderbilt, following a diabetes risk reduction diet (DRRD), where individuals are mindful of “cereal fiber, whole fruits, the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fats, glycemic index (GI), trans-fat, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)/ fruit juices, and red and processed meats,” allowed for greater reduction in hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance in those screened for lung cancer.3 In this cohort of 98,115 patients, actively encouraging patients to eat a healthier diet consisting of a higher intake of “cereal fiber, nuts, coffee, fruits, and polyunsaturated fats,” (indicating a higher DRRD score) while reducing their intake of “trans-fat,SSBs/ fruit juices, saturated fat, and red processed meats” (indicating a lower DRRD score) contributed to lowering lung cancer occurrence and severity.3 Researchers accurately deduced that “hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycemia may accelerate the biological aging process and stimulate cellular signaling pathways associated with growth factor-dependent cell proliferation and cancer development,” and successfully rooted this back to DRRD score.3

Starting conversations with patients about how their daily choices impact their risk for lung cancer is crucial for increasing lung cancer awareness and prevention practices in American society. As cited by Harold Wimmer, national CEO and president of the American Lung Association, “greater awareness of lung cancer is key to securing research funding, encouraging lung cancer screening, reducing stigma around the disease, and, ultimately, saving lives.”


1. Lung cancer statistics: How common is lung cancer? American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed November 14, 2022.  

2. Staff TASCOP. Survey reveals that most Americans are not concerned about getting lung cancer. The ASCO Post. https://www.ascopost.com/news/august-2022/survey-reveals-that-most-americans-are-not-concerned-about-getting-lung-cancer. Accessed November 14, 2022. 

3. Zhang, Y. et al. Association Between Diabetes Risk Reduction Diet and Lung Cancer Risk in 98,159 Participants: Results From a Prospective Study. Frontiers in Oncologyhttps://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fonc.2022.855101/full. Accessed November 16, 2022.

Stephanie Holland