Jewel and the ALA team up during Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, affecting more than 100,000 people every year. While ample attention has been…

Singer Jewel has teamed up with the American Lung Association to spread the word about lung cancer and women. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, affecting more than 100,000 people every year. While ample attention has been placed on the risk of lung cancer due to smoking, many people don’t realize lung cancer can be caused by other factors, too.

Because only tobacco smoke receives significant media attention in regards to lung cancer, people at risk for other reasons often have no idea they might be in danger.

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To help bring awareness about lung cancer, singer and songwriter Jewel has joined forces with the American Lung Association (ALA) for a campaign dubbed “Lung Force.”

The initiative kicks off during November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and is designed to bring attention to lung cancer statistics, especially when it comes to lung cancer and women.

Earlier this year, the ALA released a report showing breast cancer was responsible for the deaths of approximately 22 women out of every 100,000 annually, but lung cancer claimed the lives of 38 out of 100,000 women, making it the more deadly of the two.

Most women were unaware of this fact, however, with the majority citing breast cancer as the number one cancer killer for their gender.

“I use my lungs every day to do what I love, which is to sing and perform, and I was really shocked to learn that lung cancer is the number-one cancer killer of women, yet only 1 percent of women say it’s on their radar,” Jewel told “I’m a women’s health advocate, so I really believe in women having the right, the empowerment, the ability and the confidence to ask their doctors questions and take their health into their own hands.”

For many women it is surprising to learn lung cancer claims more lives than breast cancer, but the truth is even more shocking when you realize lung cancer claims more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Though smoking is a major contributor to lung cancer numbers, WebMD indicates this disease can be the result of exposure to environmental irritants like asbestos, radiation exposure, chronic lung disease, or a genetic predisposition.

Unfortunately, because people are unaware of the risks beyond cigarettes, they aren’t likely to consider lung cancer if they aren’t exposed to smoking.

“It’s not just for smokers. I think that’s a common misconception,” Jewel said. “Smoking certainly contributes to this, but it can be genetic, it can be environmental, it can be from radon gas— there’s many causes. I think with men and women, we go into our doctors and they are the experts but we still have to participate, we still have to advocate for ourselves,” she said.

“It’s important to communicate, it’s important to speak up, it’s important to say ‘I don’t feel right’ and be tenacious. If you don’t feel well, you need to get to the bottom of it.”

Overall, the American Cancer Society notes the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 13; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 16.

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These numbers include both smokers and non-smokers; however, smokers have a much higher risk of developing lung cancer compared to individuals who have no smoking exposure.