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This must be a mistake! Why non-smokers get lung cancer

Understand the causes and risk-factors associated with lung cancer in non-smoker.

October 23, 2023
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According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States, 12.5% of lung cancer cases found in people who have never smoked were between the ages of 20 and 49. 

Their symptoms included the following:

  • Coughing that gets worse or doesn't go away
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Weight loss with no known cause

Lung cancer can also cause repeated pneumonia and swollen lymph nodes in the chest area. 

Five leading causes of lung cancer in non-smokers:

  • Radon gas occurs naturally and is not dangerous in small quantities. However, it can accumulate in homes constructed on soil with natural uranium deposits. Since it is odorless and invisible, families can reside in such homes for extended periods without realizing the potential hazards.
  • Cancer-causing agents at work, like asbestos or diesel exhaust
  • Second-and third-hand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Gene mutations

The types of lung cancers found in non-smokers

Lung cancer is a severe health issue, and it is vital to know the exact type of lung cancer one has to receive proper treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50% to 60% of lung cancers in non-smokers are adenocarcinomas, which originate in the cells lining the lungs' air sacs and produce mucus. Squamous cell carcinomas, which develop in the flat cells of the lungs, account for 10% to 20% of cases. Small cell lung cancers comprise a smaller percentage, 6% to 8%. Finally, the remaining issues are made up of various other types of lung cancer.

Reducing your risk of lung cancer

Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, diesel exhaust and other air pollution is essential to decrease your chances of developing lung cancer. Additionally, it's crucial to prevent asbestos, arsenic and certain types of silica and chromium. Our experts recommend testing your home for radon and taking measures to decrease the radon level if it's high.

Unfortunately, some factors that increase the risk of lung cancer, such as personal or family history, cannot be changed. If lung cancer runs in your family, speaking with your doctor about ways to maintain your health is essential. Individuals with lung cancer who have never smoked may have a DNA mutation, such as a mutation in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene or other genes. In such cases, targeted therapy may be a viable treatment option for cancers caused by these mutations.

If you at risk of developing lung cancer, it’s important to talk to your doctor about recommended health screenings. Learn more about the health screenings we offer. 

Learn more about scheduling your health screenings. 

Published:
October 23, 2023

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