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Lung Cancer: Risk factors for non-smokers

| Date Posted: 9/17/2012 | Author: Mandy McCue

Lung Cancer: Risk factors for non-smokers

Smoking has been a controversial topic for decades. That is why the US government and courts have limited the tobacco industry’s advertising, passed smoking bans, and piled on fine after fine onto cigarette companies.  But, did you know that there are many other factors that can increase your risk of developing lung cancer besides smoking?Lung Cancer: Risk factors for non-smokers

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the U.S. and is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in men and women. (Source: Everyday Health) Every year approximately 170,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer and 10% of those people have never smoked. If smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, how can non-smokers develop lung cancer?

There have been a few known causes leading to lung cancer in non-smokers. The top five causes are secondhand smoke, radon gas, asbestos, air pollution and heredity.

  • Secondhand smoke: People who don’t smoke and reside in the same household as a smoker have a 24% greater chance of developing lung cancer than a non-smoker. Approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths a year are related to secondhand smoke.
  • Radon gas: Radon gas is a clear, odorless gas that occurs naturally in the environment. It occurs when uranium decays. It contributes to approximately 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year making it the most common cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. (Source: MedicineNet and
  • Asbestos:  Asbestos is a mineral fiber that is commonly used in construction materials because of its strengths and heat resistant properties. During demolition, remodeling or repair activities the asbestos could become airborne and be inhaled into the lungs.  People who work with asbestos have a five-fold greater risk of developing lung cancer than other non-smokers. (Source: EPA and MedicineNet)
  • Air Pollution:  Smog is the most familiar form of air pollution when in fact there are many forms of air pollution around us. Some common forms of air pollution include emissions from exhaust, factories, petroleum, power lines that aren’t insulated, pesticides, radioactive fallout, fertilizer dust, indoor air pollution due to bad ventilation, mining operations, and mills and plants. (Source: eHow Health) Prolonged exposure to air pollution can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. There are approximately 2,000 lung cancer deaths a year attributed to air pollution.(Source: MedicineNet)
  • Heredity: Heredity is a common risk factor with most cancers. Numerous studies have shown that both smokers and non-smokers with family history of lung cancer have an increased risk compared to smokers or non-smokers without any family history.(Source: MedicineNet)

It is important to take proactive steps toward lung cancer. The simplest way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to not smoke, or to quit smoking. Other steps you can take to help reduce your risk of lung cancer are, test for radon in your home, limit your exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos, and eat healthy. A lot of fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that will help protect the body against multiple types of cancers.

If you or someone you know is interested in quitting smoking please visit FirstQuit or call (888) 534-5333 for more information.

FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital’s FirstHealth Cancer Services offers various clinical trials and treatments for patients with lung cancer. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial please visit FirstHealth not only provides treatments but also provides support for patients and family members in the Pinehurst,Lumberton, Laurinburg, Raeford,Sanford,Troy and Rockingham regions ofNorth Carolina and beyond.

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