Not a smoker? You could still be at risk for lung cancer


Did you know that smoking isn’t the only cause of lung cancer? While the vast majority of lung cancer cases (about 90 percent) can be attributed to smoking, about 10 percent of lung cancers occur in non-smokers.

Even if you’ve never smoked a cigarette in your life, you may be at risk for lung cancer. Here are five causes of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Secondhand smoke. Inhaling tobacco smoke from other smokers who share your living or work space is a known risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke (also known as passive smoking) have a 24 percent greater risk of lung cancer than other non-smokers. Secondhand smoke is the cause of as many as 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Radon gas. Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that travels up through the soil and can enter buildings through gaps in the foundation, pipes, drains or other openings. It accounts for an estimated 12 percent of total lung cancer deaths in both smokers and non-smokers in America annually. Smokers who are also exposed to radon gas have an even greater risk of developing lung cancer. You can easily detect radon with a simple test kit.

Asbestos. Asbestos is a compound that was once widely used in home insulation materials. Microscopic asbestos fibers can break loose from the insulation and be released into the air, where they are then inhaled into the lungs. Again, smokers who are exposed to asbestos have a significantly higher risk of developing lung cancer, but asbestos workers who are non-smokers are five times more likely to develop lung cancer than other non-smokers.

Today, asbestos use has been limited or banned in many countries, including the United States. Keep in mind that asbestos in older homes usually only poses a risk if your home is being remodeled or if it has damaged building materials. If you live in a home built before the 1980s and you're concerned about asbestos in your home, leave any materials potentially containing asbestos alone and contact an accredited asbestos professional for an inspection.  

Family history. As with many types of cancer, heredity can play a factor in lung cancer risk. Both smokers and non-smokers who have a family history of lung cancer are more likely to develop lung cancer than the general population.

Air pollution. It’s estimated that as many as 2,000 lung cancer deaths a year can be attributed to breathing polluted air. Some experts suggest that prolonged exposure to polluted air carries a risk for lung cancer similar to that of secondhand smoke exposure.

Even if you are a non-smoker, you can reduce your risk of getting lung cancer. Avoid secondhand smoke, test your home for radon and asbestos and limit your exposure to asbestos and other cancer-causing agents at work. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables to help lower your risk of lung cancer and other forms of cancer.

Goshen Health offers free lung cancer screenings to high-risk individuals in the Goshen community and the surrounding areas. To find out if you qualify for a free screening, contact your healthcare provider or call (574) 364-2400 for more information. 

Have you been diagnosed with lung cancer? Contact the Goshen Center for Cancer Care today to learn how we can treat your type of cancer. Give us a call at (888) 492-4673 (HOPE).