Cigarette smoking and residential radon are, respectively, the first and second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Of the approximately 157 000 lung deaths occurring in 2000, approximately 90% can be attributed to cigarette smoking and 30% of the lung cancer deaths among non-smokers can be attributed to residential radon exposure. Although dwarfed by cigarette related lung cancer, lung cancer among lifetime non-smokers is a leading cause of death in the United States, and many other countries, accounting for approximately 16 000 deaths per year in the US. Laboratory studies and epidemiological investigations, particularly those conducted in the past decade, are yielding evidence that tobacco smoke and radon may share important elements of lung cancer's pathologic mechanism(s). Lung cancer prevention among smokers, ex-smokers and lifetime nonsmokers can be enhanced as we learn more about the etiologic mechanism(s) of lung cancer resulting from these and other exposures including diet, non-malignant respiratory diseases, occupational exposures, and susceptibility-gene. In this article we review both laboratory and epidemiologic data that gives insight into the biologic damage done to the lung from these exposures.