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Characterised as one of the most “common” types of cancer, lung cancer targets around 47,000 patients in the UK every year. This “serious” condition could be triggered by a colourless gas that could be hiding in your home, according to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.
Dr Lee said: “Radon gas is thought to be the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking.
“In the UK, radon is thought to cause 1,100 cases of lung cancer per year.”
In case you’re not aware, radon describes a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that gets produced during the decay of uranium.
And uranium describes a heavy metal found in rocks – “often situated deep in the ground”, the expert noted.
Classed as carcinogenic, radon can cause changes to your DNA, leading to cellular mutations.
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She added: “When radon is produced, it is channelled upwards into buildings and tends to concentrate especially in basements, and in underground water.
“Many people are unaware of the radon levels where they live.
“You are recommended to check the radon levels in your area when buying and selling a property.
“A safe radon level is 20 Bq/m3 or less. Below 100 Bq/m3 is said to be low risk. A level of 200 Bq/m3 is high risk.
“Levels tend to be higher in basements, and in properties which are poorly ventilated.”
Plus, those who work underground may be at an especially high risk of radon exposure.
Fortunately, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shares that the levels of radon in buildings tend to be low.
“The chances of a higher level depend on the type of ground,” it notes.
UKHSA also published a map showing where high levels are more likely, with dark colour marking these areas.
However, the map shows that the majority of the UK is actually covered by white colour, suggesting low risk.
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Dr Lee added: “In the UK, radon levels are highest in the Southwest and are often found in areas where there are tin mines.”
Apart from lung cancer, radon gas has been also linked to kidney cancer, melanoma, some types of blood cancer, and some brain tumours, according to research.
The expert said: “Even when radon doesn’t cause cancer, it can worsen other diseases.
“It has been linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and pulmonary fibrosis.”
What to do about radon
Dr Lee recommended to “check your radon levels” where you live. She instructed to explore the interactive map, by entering your postcode and seeing if you live in a high-risk radon area.
She said: “If you live in a radon-affected area, you should arrange to measure the radon levels in your home.
“You will be sent two radon detectors which you send back in the post after three months.”
If you found that the culprit is indeed in your home, you should follow the advice to have remedial works undertaken.
Dr Lee said: “[This] will typically involve sealing the floors and the loft hatch and improving ventilation. You may need to have a radon sump fitted.”
She added that due to permafrost melting because of global warming, vast quantities of radon are being released into the atmosphere, potentially becoming a “serious” concern for the future.
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