Utah has lowest lung cancer rates, but radon exposure still a risk

Nov 14, 2023, 8:00 PM | Updated: Nov 15, 2023, 9:19 am

In a basement stocked with emergency food supplies Charlie McQuinn, 71, shows the radon mitigation ...

Charlie McQuinn, 71, shows the radon mitigation system in his Cottonwood Heights home on Thursday, December 1, 2011. McQinn's doctors believe the high levels of radon in his house were the cause of his lung cancer. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report says Utah leads the country with the fewest lung cancer cases and smokers. But one risk factor remains high on our list — radon.

The American Lung Association of Utah just released its 6th annual “State of Lung Cancer” report. It reveals Utah’s best-of-the-country ranking.

Nick Torres, who is with the association, said their goal isn’t just to highlight the positives. There are also things Utah can do better, like screenings.

According to the report, Utah is currently ranked near the bottom for lung cancer screening. Torres said screening is underutilized and hopes the report will take away some of the stigma attached to screening.

“Our primary goal is really that lung cancer screening saves lives,” he said. “So if we can promote this report, and we can promote our options for screening and prevention and treatment options, I think we can save more and more and more lives.”

But one lesser-known risk factor is radon exposure. According to Protect Environmental, “radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.” It can get in your home through foundation cracks and water systems.

Utah ranks poorly on this risk factor due to our geographical makeup.

“What oftentimes people don’t know is that radon exposure is the number one cause of lung cancer for folks who don’t smoke,” said Nick Torres from the association.

He said the levels depend on where you live and can differ from home to home. However, free radon testing is available through a partnership with Protect Environmental.

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Utah has lowest lung cancer rates, but radon exposure still a risk