Those who smoke are at the greatest risk of getting lung cancer, hence, for obvious reasons, those who don’t smoke assume they are not at risk at all. However, this is a misconception. Non-smokers can get lung cancer as well, just like any other cancer, and scientific research has narrowed down a few reasons why.
Interestingly, smokers and ex-smokers tend to get lung cancer at a much later age than those who are non-smokers. In the non-smoker cancer group, women are at the greatest risk. This means, as Vincent Lam (specialist in lung cancer at the Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas) puts it, the lung cancer in non-smokers and smokers are very different and can easily be classified as two distinct diseases.
Since the nature of the cancer is different, the treatment is different as well. The cancer in non-smokers can be treated by latest drugs, which is probably why they are able to live much longer than those suffering from cancer who smoke or were once smokers.
Radon is a natural gas that is present in the air just like oxygen, however in much smaller quantity. It becomes dangerous when it crosses a particular threshold, which can happen if the gas gets trapped in a place such as the basement of the house or as is the case in mines. That is why, coal miners are very prone to getting lung disease, because of the elevated concentrations of radon in the mines.
The Environmental and Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that an easy-to-use home kit should be used to identify the concentration levels of radon in the air wherever a person expects to spend a long period of time to ensure they are not at risk of inhaling too much radon. If it is found that radon levels are too high in the air, such as the basement of the house, there is no reason to panic as it can be reduced with air filtration techniques that the EPA recommends.
To find out whether your area is prone to having higher levels of radon, check this map provided by the EPA.
There are two ways you may be passively smoking tobacco without realizing it. The first way is by inhaling the smoke coming directly from the burning tobacco, and the second way is by inhaling the smoke exhaled by the smoker. Around 25% of the lung cancers are due to passive smoking.
This is why smoking is banned in almost all indoor places, and designated open-air smoking zones are made to ensure non-smokers are kept away from the damage of smoking. Children are most prone to getting effected by passive smoking, especially those exposed to it at a young age.
Just like passive smoking, air polluted with carcinogens (harmful gases) is slowly becoming a major cause of cancers in the lungs and the bladder. Pollutants are coming from multiple sources, such as exhausts of vehicles, coal power plants, stoves fired with wood, to name a few.
Even though the government has tried to reduce the amount of air pollution with the Clean Air Act, there are many parts of the world, such as China, which are increasingly burning coal and creating more pollution in the air.
Radiation in the Chest
Radiation is one of the ways cancer patients are treated. However, the same radiation that aims to cure one cancer can cause cancer in the lungs. This is especially true for women who have sought treatment for breast cancer in the past, and those who received treatment for Hodgkins lymphoma are also at risk of developing lung cancer in the long run. However, according to Dr. Lam, it’s uncommon.
Mutations in the Genes
There are genetic reasons why a person may be more prone to getting lung cancer, and smoking or non-smoking only makes the difference to the extent of how soon a person gets lung cancer. In essence, smoking may speed up the cancer and make its happening sooner than later, which means that a person who has such a genetic code may get lung cancer at some point in his life, regardless of whether he or she smoked or not.