How Do You Get Lung Cancer If You Never Smoked?

Lung cancer is mostly found in smokers (most cases of the disease is associated with smoking). This means that smoking is the biggest risk factor of the disease. But this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect non-smokers. Here are other ways of how you get lung cancer if you never smoked!

Secondhand smoke

It is tobacco smoke that you inhale from someone else when or after smoking. It is also often called as environmental tobacco smoke. And when you get it, you are called ‘passive smoking’ or ‘involuntary smoking’!

The bad news, passive smoking can pose the risk of inhaling nicotine and other harmful chemicals by the same route active smoking does! Even EPA (the environmental Protection Agency) has officially confirmed that it is categorized into ‘known human carcinogen’.

So you cannot ignore tobacco smoke around you! The more secondhand smoke you inhale when breathing, the greater level of these toxic chemicals to accumulate in your body!

Tobacco smoke is the host of lots of chemical compounds, and about 250 of them are toxic which 69 are categorized into carcinogens! Therefore, secondhand smoke can increase the risk of lung cancer, too.

It is also linked to the raised risk of other cancers – such as cancers of brain, rectum, bladder, stomach, throat, voice box (larynx), nasal sinuses, and breast in adults.

IARC (the International Agency for Research on Cancer) has also officially confirmed that secondhand smoke increases the risk of a rare liver cancer in children called hepatoblastoma. According to this report, pregnant women who get exposed to secondhand smoke have increased risk of having a child with hepatoblastoma.

Secondhand smoke can be divided into two categories; side-stream and mainstream tobacco smoke.

Side-stream tobacco smoke is smoke coming from the lighted end of a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. And for mainstream smoke, it is the smoke exhaled by someone else who’s smoking tobacco.

You may think that there is no different in either case. But you are wrong, they aren’t! Side-stream smoke hosts a greater concentration and smaller particles of carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Since the particles are smaller, they are easier to travel and go into the airways and lungs!

image_illustration392Other facts about secondhand smoke:

  1. It contributes to cause more than 30,000 deaths from heart disease, and more than 7,000 deaths from lung cancer each year, according to A Report of the Surgeon General in 2014.
  2. In the same report, it is also definitive cause of stroke.
  3. Even short-term exposure or a small amount of secondhand smoke is bad for your lung! There is no risk-free level!

It’s not always easy to avoid passive smoking, though many public policies have been issued to reduce the exposure of secondhand smoke. But we don’t need to wait for the government to act!

You can start from your family. For instance, if you are a smoker, quitting as soon as possible! Meanwhile, you can determine to make your home smoke-free.

Radon gas

Tobacco smoke takes more attention when it comes to the risk of lung cancer. However, it is not the only one risk factor!

The role of lungs is so critical in your respirator system. But they are also vulnerable to get damaged and infected due to any bad things in the air that you inhale when breathing.

Radon gas may be the most common trigger-factor for lung cancer, after tobacco smoke. This gas is actually a natural radioactive gas, derived from tiny amounts of uranium in the soils and rocks. It can accumulate in the buildings.

There is about 20, 000 cases of lung cancer associated with radon gas (quite high), according to EPA. Radon test kit is available. You can purchase it in some home improvement centers.

The higher level of radon gas, the higher risk of lung cancer! Therefore, quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can be much more important if you live in area with high radon gas.

Other bad things in environment can increase the risk, too. These include:

  1. Arsenic, diesel exhaust, chromium, silica, and asbestos. These are common substances found at several workplaces. In some cases, the risk of lung cancer from exposure to these substances is even greater than exposure to tobacco smoke.
  2. Air pollution! This is dependent on the intensity and level of air pollution you’re regularly exposed to!

Previous lung diseases

Some experts believe that having history of particular lung diseases may also affect the risk, especially true for some that have caused scarring in the lungs. For instance, tuberculosis can cause scar tissue in the lung.

This scaring may be starting point for cancerous tumor to grow. Scarred tissue in the lung due to previous lung diseases may increase the risk of lung cancer called adenocarcinoma carcinoma (the most common subtype of non-small cell lung cancer).

The following are other lung diseases that may contribute to cause increased risk of lung cancer: