Although lung cancer usually affects long-time smokers, the number of people who have never smoked who are diagnosed with lung cancer is increasing. Additionally, lung cancer appears to be on the rise among people in their 30s and 40s who have never smoked a day in their lives. Experts are still trying to figure out exactly why. But possible causes could be high levels of radon in homes (which can easily go unnoticed), exposure to secondhand smoke, and family history.
Additionally, heavy air pollution, as well as carcinogenic substances such as asbestos, may also be to blame.
Detection is not an option but a necessity
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to identify the disease in non-smokers. Doctors can detect lung cancer using low-dose CT scans. But testing is reserved for people known to be at high risk. Currently, the population most affected by lung cancer screening is between 55 and 80 years old and has smoked or quit smoking in the last 15 years. Without screening, it is difficult to identify lung cancer at an early stage. By the time most people have symptoms that are worrisome enough to warrant a call to their doctor, the cancer may be advanced.
Detect early symptoms of lung cancer
Given the increase in the number of lung cancers in people who don’t seem to have risk factors for the disease, it’s important to pay attention to worrying symptoms and report them to your doctor.
Here are some warning signs to watch out for.
1 Difficulty breathing
But it is also a symptom of lung cancer. If you are an active person who can no longer walk up a few flights of stairs without stopping for breath, this is an unusual and concerning symptom.
2 A chronic cough
Catching a cold or the flu is common, especially in winter. And the cough can last longer than expected (on average 18 days). However, a dry, persistent, stubborn cough that has lasted four to six weeks or more may indicate that you need an X-ray to check the condition of your lungs.
3 spit blood
This is never normal and requires urgent evaluation. Causes can range from lung cancer to bronchitis, or a viral or bacterial infection.
4-5 Weight loss, fever, night sweats
Weight loss (without dieting), unrelated fevers, or profuse night sweats are symptoms that will prompt your doctor to evaluate you for occult cancer.
There is no mystery, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, followed by radon exposure. Lung cancer involves the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the bronchi (tubes that take air in and out of the lungs) and other parts of the lungs. Researchers have identified harmful substances (carcinogens) that can damage cells and lead to lung cancer. Genes may also play a role. Knowing the causes of lung cancer can help you take the right steps to minimize risk factors and recognize symptoms.
Smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer. It contributes to 80% of lung cancer deaths in women and 90% of lung cancer deaths in men. Smoking cigars and pipes is about as likely to cause cancer as smoking cigarettes.
Although tobacco smoke is the main cause of lung cancer, not all smokers develop the disease. Secondhand smoke, which is smoke inhaled from someone else’s cigarette, cigar, or pipe, can also cause lung cancer.
Exposure to radon, an invisible, natural gas that can become trapped in buildings, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Approximately 10% of all lung cancer cases are caused by radon gas, leading to approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
Asbestos is a material used for insulation in construction. When asbestos fibers become loose, they can become airborne and dangerous to inhale, causing scarring and inflammation in the lungs as they build up. Asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer that develops in the pleura, the membrane that surrounds the lungs. Numerous studies have shown that the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure is particularly dangerous.
Particle pollution (a mix of tiny solid and liquid particles in the air) can cause lung cancer. Between 1% and 2% of lung cancer cases are caused by outdoor air pollution. Common air pollution culprits are exhaust fumes from diesel trucks, coal-fired power plants, and wood smoke.
Other possible causes of lung cancer include:
Radiation therapy to the chest area as a treatment for certain types of cancer can cause lung cancer.
Researchers are investigating whether certain foods or supplements may contribute to lung cancer. For example, studies have shown that smokers who take beta-carotene supplements are more likely to develop lung cancer.
Exposure to several other substances has been linked to the development of lung cancer. These include arsenic (in drinking water), chromium, and nickel.
However, a Swedish study that followed nearly 50,000 men over a 40-year period found a link between marijuana use and lung cancer. Heavy marijuana smokers — those who reported smoking more than 50 times in their lifetime — were twice as likely to get lung cancer as non-marijuana smokers.
inherited gene mutations
Some people inherit certain genetic mutations, or changes in their DNA, that can increase their risk of developing cancer.
These gene changes alone do not cause many cases of lung cancer, but they do play a role in some cases. For example, people who inherit certain mutations on chromosome 6 are more likely to develop lung cancer, even if they don’t smoke. Also, some people inherit faulty DNA repair enzymes that make them more susceptible to cancer-causing chemicals. Doctors are working on developing specific tests to identify people with these genetic abnormalities.
Acquired genetic mutations
Very often, the gene mutations that affect lung cancer are “acquired,” rather than inherited. This means that the defect develops throughout your life. These acquired mutations often occur due to exposure to carcinogenic substances, such as tobacco smoke. But some gene mutations occur without a known cause and may just be random events. Everyone develops cell mutations during their lifetime, but toxic exposures cause more of these mutations, increasing the risk of acquiring a cancer-causing mutation.
Genetic mutations can also make some lung cancers more aggressive.
Lung cancer in men and women.
Historically, lung cancer rates have always been higher in men than women. But a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in May 2018 found that lung cancer rates are now higher in women than men among people born since 1965.
For example, lung cancer rates among white women ages 40-44 increased from 12% less than men during the 1995-1999 period to 17% more during the 2010-2014 period.
* In health press we strive to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information provided be a substitute for medical advice.
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