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Quit smokingKentucky has the highest death rate for lung cancer in the nation – 50 percent higher than the national average. We also have the highest rate of smoking – 28 percent higher than the national average.

Other causes such as mining and radon in the ground contribute to lung cancer prevalence. When toxins and dust from asbestos exposure or mining are combined with cigarette smoking, the risk is much, much higher.

But occupational problems alone pale in comparison to smoking.

Those age 55-80 who currently smoke, or have quit in the past 15 years and have a smoking history of at least 30 pack years, are at the highest risk of lung cancer.  A low-dose CT scan is recommended every year for this group.

A pack year is defined as smoking 20 cigarettes (one pack) each day for a year. So, 30 pack years equals one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years. People who smoke often vary their habits over the years. Visit to calculate your pack years. If it equals 30 or more, be sure to talk to your doctor about a low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer.

So how can you avoid being counted among these statistics? You can avoid inhaling mining or asbestos dust, of course, but the option with the greatest impact among Kentuckians is to stop smoking. 

A good place to start ending a smoking addiction is with the Great American Smokeout. Each year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in this American Cancer Society-sponsored event. If you’re a smoker, try quitting on this day or use the date to make a plan to quit. If you are not a smoker, encourage a smoker you know to use the date to quit or begin planning to quit. By quitting, smokers take an important step toward a healthier life and reducing their cancer risk.

Early detection is another key to beating the odds with lung cancer. If you are at high risk for lung cancer from smoking or any other risk factor, contact your primary care physician for a low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. This scan helps find lung cancer before there are symptoms. It has been proven to save lives by finding lung cancer early.

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, ask your doctor to refer you to the Lung Clinic at the UofL Brown Cancer Center for treatment or call 502-562-HOPE (4673). The Brown Cancer Center offers clinical trials for most stages of lung cancer. We have a rich history of experience, and can offer very new treatments that aren’t available anywhere else in Kentucky, but are so promising that we believe they will be the standard of treatment in the years to come.

Kentucky also has the highest proportional rate of small cell lung cancer – the most aggressive and fastest growing lung cancer that we know of. The Brown Cancer Center offers clinical trials with a new drug that is very promising for this particular cancer as well.

The key is acting now to prevent your risk for lung cancer. Learn more about lung cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment at the Brown Cancer Center by visiting It’s the best way to avoid becoming counted among the Kentucky statistics.

Ready to quit smoking? Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit visit

The M. Krista Loyd Resource Center at UofL Brown Cancer Center also offers “Plan to be tobacco free” courses in conjunction with the Kentucky Cancer Program. Call 502-562-7092 to learn more.

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Article by:

Goetz Kloecker, M.D.

Dr. Goetz Kloecker is an associate professor of medicine at the University of Louisville Department of Medicine, and director of Thoracic Medical Oncology and director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program at the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

All posts by Goetz Kloecker, M.D.
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