Lung Cancer Risks for Non-smokers
Although people know that staying away from tobacco is the most important thing to do to avoid getting lung cancer, it isn’t a guarantee. Even if you’ve never smoked there’s a risk of getting lung cancer. Every year, about 16,000 to 24,000 Americans pass away from lung cancer even though they do not smoke.
The majority of people associate smoking with lung cancer and as a result, many patients feel judged or responsible for their disease, despite the strongly addictive qualities of tobacco. This stigma can lead to patients feeling less deserving of care. It becomes an additional burden for people who are dealing with a difficult cancer. While people get lung cancer with or without smoking it is important to recognize that everyone needs the best care which includes emotional support, counseling and education along with the best anti-cancer treatments. It is just as important to educate peers and the general public about the many factors that can increase your risk for lung cancer so that there isn’t a misunderstanding.
Below are some reasons that researchers say can increase your risk of lung cancer besides smoking:
- Radon gas: According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), exposure to radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon exists naturally outdoors in harmless amounts, but can become concentrated in homes built on soil with natural uranium deposits. A home test is necessary in order to know if it is a problem.
- Secondhand smoke: Each year, an estimated 3,400 non-smokers die of lung cancer due to breathing secondhand smoke. It is encouraged for people to be aware of their surroundings and to avoid places that expose them to smoking environments.
- Work related cancer-causing agents: Exposure to carcinogens, like asbestos and diesel exhaust, increases your risk in getting lung cancer. Although the use of these materials has decreased in recent years, the dangers are still present.
- Air pollution: According to an American Cancer Society study, researchers believe that tiny amounts of increased carcinogens in air pollution significantly increase risk of lung cancer.
- Gene mutations: It is believed that a particular kind of gene mutation is more common in lung cancer amongst non-smokers than smokers according to an article published in Clinical Cancer Research. The mutation causes a gene to constantly grow and divide, which results in the lung cancer cells growing faster. Targeted therapies have been developed specifically for these mutations and more are under study.
Based off of these findings, it is encouraged for people to avoid secondhand smoke, test your home for radon, and stay away from cancer causing chemicals to avoid the leading causes of lung cancer for non-smokers.
For more information from the American Cancer Society, go to: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/why-lung-cancer-strikes-nonsmokers