Lung cancer cases are on the rise in non-smokers. Here’s why!

Updated on:20 November 2021, 08:43am IST
Did you know that lung cancer cases have become common among non-smokers too. But what is the best way to prevent its incidence? Let’s find out now!
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Be careful about taking in second-hand smoke, because it can really harm you. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Lung cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in the world, and is often considered a common cancer among smokers. As per a recent report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in 2020, 15-20 percent of men and over 50 percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer are non-smokers. Research suggests that the stigma around lung cancer and smoking not only affects the patients, but also caregivers and doctors during the treatment. 

Lung cancer can be caused by multiple factors other than tobacco. The disease can develop under various conditions and situations, which can increase the risk of its incidence in non-smokers. The term “non-smokers” is for people who have smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Experts suggest that lung cancer affects non-smokers differently, and the cases are consistently on the rise. 

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A cancer that begins in the lungs and most often occurs in people who smoke. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What are some of the risk factors of lung cancer for non-smokers?
1. Second-hand smoke

Inhaling fumes of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and other tobacco products can be as dangerous as smoking. Non-smokers inhaling the smoke face serious health risks. According to the American Cancer Society, thousands of harmful chemicals like nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, lead, ammonia, arsenic, carbon monoxide, and other substances are present in tobacco. These elements affect the lungs adversely.

2. Air pollution

By breathing polluted air, there are chances of developing lung cancer or other respiratory diseases. Prolonged exposure to contaminated air from industries, vehicles, and various other sources have similar consequences as regular smoking.

3. Genetics

Lung cancer can be inherited. It is important to know only the cancer cells are inherited and not the disease. Therefore, it does not determine the chances of getting cancer.

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Talk to your doctor about how you can take care of your lungs. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
4. Age

Lung cancer can occur at any age, but people at the age of 65 and above are more vulnerable. 

5. Exposure to arbitrary gases

Breathing random gases that can travel through soil, air, water, and other mediums are unsafe and can cause complications.

6. Exposure to harmful compounds

Sniffing elements like asbestos, arsenic, chromium, and nickel can aggravate risk.

7. Lung diseases

Another underlying cause for developing lung cancer can be previous lung diseases and exposure to radiation therapy and chemotherapy

Exposure to these risk elements raises blood pressure levels, asthma, and possibilities of other frequent illnesses. While exposure to smoke is increasing the cases of lung cancer in non-smokers, children are more vulnerable to this than adults. 

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Don’t take your lungs lightly. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

When the body inhales these harmful substances initially, it tries to repair itself. But with repetitive exposure, the body starts showing signs and symptoms of lung problems, which can later turn into lung cancer. 

Warning signs to look out for in lung cancer
  • Shortness of breath, making it harder for lungs to work in their full capacity;
  • Blood in cough, sometimes the situation gets serious and needs immediate attention from the doctor;
  • Cancer when starts spreading in the body, causes pain in bones, chest, and other regions of the body;
  • Lack of energy to perform regular tasks and extreme tiredness;
  • Loss of appetite and sudden weight loss;
  • Swelling in fingers, face, or neck.
Are there any ways to prevent lung cancer?

1. Avoid smoke: Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoking should try and avoid it. Wear a mask, avoid going near the smoking area, visit places that do not allow smoking, or try other smoke-free options available.

2. Check air quality at home: Make sure you stay away from fumes emitted from the chimney, dust, kitchen smoke, pet dander, and fumes from incense sticks or candles, as they are indoor pollutants and are harmful for health.

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Pollution is detrimental to your overall health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Regular exercises: Staying active and increasing the heart rate once a day helps in maintaining lung capacity, and improves the overall health of the body. You can also choose to walk or do other physical activities to stay fit.

4. Balanced diet: Healthy food is the key to a healthier life. Food low in sodium and saturated fat, vegetables, and fruits should be eaten daily.

5. Don’t consume tobacco: If you are a non-smoker do not start smoking or consume other tobacco products. 

Follow these tips to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer, but if you experience any symptoms, it is recommended to immediately consult a doctor.

Dr Vinay Samuel Gaikwad Dr Vinay Samuel Gaikwad

Dr Vinay Samuel Gaikwad, Surgical Oncologist, CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon