More than 90 people a month are being diagnosed with lung cancer in WA.
Cancer Council WA is using Lung Cancer Awareness Month to remind people of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer and what they can do to help to reduce the risk of developing the disease, as new data reveals 1109* Western Australian's were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017.
Cancer Council WA's Cancer Education and Screening Manager, Melissa Treby, said although the vast proportion of lung cancer cases were caused by smoking tobacco (and quitting is the best way to reduce your risk) it was important to acknowledge that 10 per cent of cases in Australian men and 35 per cent of cases in Australian women were not attributable to smoking.
"We now know that there are occupational causes of lung cancer," Mrs Treby said.
"Workers at risk are those exposed to certain cancer causing agents in their workplace; this may include farmers, construction workers, heavy transport operators, miners, carpenters, metal workers, mechanics, transport workers and painters."
"Diesel engine exhaust created by burning diesel fuels contributes to 130 lung cancer cases in Australia each year, with silica dust contributing to cause an estimated 230 new lung cancer cases each year," she said.
Silica dust is found in stone, rock, sand, gravel and clay and products such as bricks, tiles and manufactured stone benchtops.
When these products containing silica dust are cut or worked on they can release a super fine dust which can be breathed deep into the lungs. In Australia, around 600,000 workers are exposed to silica dust every day.
"Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a safe place to work. I urge people working with silica containing materials to consider their future health, get informed and protect themselves," she said.
"If they are concerned about conditions at work, it's important to raise that with their employer too.
"If you are regularly demolishing materials, sandcasting, sandblasting, bricklaying or cutting stone, tiles or bricks as a part of your job, you are at risk of exposure to silica dust, so you need to get informed today."
In addition to smoking and occupational exposure, other known causes of lung cancer include radon exposure, air pollution, a family history of lung cancer and previous lung disease.
Symptoms of lung cancer
- a persistent new cough or a change in an ongoing cough
- unexplained weight loss
- chest and/or shoulder pain
- repeated bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis
- coughing or spitting up blood
- difficulty swallowing
- loss of appetite
"If you cough up blood once or experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, a persistent cough, recurring bronchitis or pneumonia, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss and fatigues, see your doctor or health worker right away," Mrs Treby said.
"The chances of successful treatment are much higher when cancer is found early."
Lung cancer remains the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and the most common cause of cancer death according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data.
In WA in 2017, 637 men and 472 women were diagnosed with lung cancer.
*Western Australian Cancer Registry - WA Department of Health (unpublished statistics)