Nope, it’s not breast cancer. Or skin cancer. Or colon cancer.
Though we hear a lot about these cancers in the media (and they’re important to understand and do our best to prevent), lung cancer is actually the number one cancer killer of both men and women in the U.S. In fact, while new lung cancer cases have dropped by more than a third in men over the past 35 years, they’ve DOUBLED in women.
So what’s going on here? And isn’t lung cancer a smoker’s disease?
Well, yes and no. While it’s true that cigarette smoking is the top risk factor for lung cancer (people who smoke are 15 to 30 times more likely to get it), more than two-thirds of people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked or are former smokers. So secondhand smoke and chemicals in our environment, like radon, asbestos and diesel exhaust, are adding to these numbers.
Since October is Healthy Lung Month, it’s the perfect time to throw out some challenges to get employees thinking about these two incredibly vital organs.
Here are five challenges that will get – or keep – employees on the road to breathing easy:
1. That’s It, I Quit.
Challenge smokers to join a tobacco cessation program to kick the habit once and for all. Provide a variety of incentive levels: one for those who join, another if they stick with it for a month and a top tier for everyone who completes the program.
2. Lung Cancer Screening: It’s No Joke If You Smoke.
Sadly, most lung cancers aren’t diagnosed until later stages; only half of women will survive one year, while just 20% survive five years. But the five-year survival rate more than doubles with early detection. Reward smokers who get an annual low-dose CT screening to increase those odds.
3. Home on the Radon-Free Range.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon causes about 20,000 cases of lung cancer each year, making it the second leading cause behind smoking. Nearly 1 in 15 homes has high radon levels – challenge employees to have their home tested.
4. Support a Quitter.
Reward employees who pledge to stand beside a friend or relative who’s committed to quitting smoking. Not only will they reduce their loved one’s lung cancer risk, but their own as well, as secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in nonsmokers.
5. Weekly Exercise.
This challenge is for everyone – and the benefits aren’t just for the lungs. We’re talking 150 weekly minutes of exercise (30 minutes a day, five days a week). This can be broken into 10-minute chunks throughout the day, if necessary, but aside from not smoking, getting the heart rate up and oxygen flowing is one of the best ways to boast some very healthy lungs.
Sources: American Lung Association, CDC