Although 90 percent of lung cancer cases affect smokers, the other 10 percent of lung cancer patients have never smoked.
In fact, the American Cancer Society says that if lung cancer in non-smokers were its own category of cancer, it would rank among the top 10 fatal cancers in the United States.
Besides smoking, the top causes for lung cancer are radon gas, secondhand smoke, cancer-causing agents in the workplace, air pollution and gene mutations.
Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and is colorless and odorless, therefore its presence is unknown unless you specifically test for it. Radon occurs naturally in harmless amounts, but sometimes can be concentrated in homes built on land with uranium deposits.
ALK-positive lung cancer is a rare type of lung cancer that occurs in about five percent of lung cancer patients and develops in mostly non-smokers. This type of cancer occurs when a region of the DNA in a cell is rearranged, which creates a signal that causes cancer cells to grow. Despite being a gene abnormality, this type of lung cancer is not hereditary.
Keep in mind that smokeless tobacco is not healthier than cigarette use and can cause many other cancers and diseases. In addition, nicotine stays in your blood longer when using smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco or snuff, which can also cause blood clots and damage blood vessel lining, as well as cause a heart attack or stroke.
Some lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk for lung cancer as a non-smoker are testing your home for radon, avoiding secondhand smoke and limiting direct exposure to cancer-causing agents at work, such as asbestos and diesel exhaust.
If you feel you may be in a workplace with harmful environmental issues like asbestos, radon or diesel exhaust, talk to your supervisor about getting the necessary tests completed and in place to ensure your and your coworkers’ safety.
If you have a close friend or loved one who is a smoker, you can encourage them and give them the necessary tools to quit smoking, which will help their health, as well as your own. If they are ready to quit smoking, encourage them to talk to their doctor about creating a plan to quit smoking to help achieve a healthier, tobacco-free life.