Lung cancer in nonsmokers — who’s most at risk


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Smoking may seem synonymous with lung cancer, but it isn’t. Those who have never picked up a cigarette can still develop the disease and, in fact, 10% to 15% of cases are blamed on factors other than smoking. Now we have a clearer picture of the disease in nonsmokers.

In reviewing lung cancer cases among lifelong nonsmokers in North America, Europe and Asia, researchers with the American Cancer Society have established that:


  • Men are more likely to die of the disease than women, regardless of age or racial group.
  • Men and women are almost equally as likely to develop the disease at age 40 and beyond.
  • African Americans are more likely to die from the disease than are those of European descent.
  • Asians living in Korea and Japan, but not in the U.S., are more likely to die of the disease than those of European descent.
  • The disease doesn’t seem to be rising among women in the U.S. (Again: The study was among nonsmokers — the rise among women smokers has been well-documented.)
  • The disease is more common in East Asian women than in other women.

Here’s the full report — available to all at PLoS Medicine.

If you’re looking for a personal account of a nonsmoker with the disease, check out the blog 2newlungs. It’s about the daily — medical and nonmedical — life of Jerrold. He describes himself this way: ‘Former football player and never smoker who beat stage 4 BAC (lung cancer) and survived a bi-lateral lung transplant at Stanford University March 2007.’

And of course, for all the statistics and information you could possibly want about the disease, there’s the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. Smoker or no, the disease is horrific.

— Tami Dennis

(The first words in this post were originally ‘Lung cancer.’ The intended word, ‘Smoking,’ has been substituted to correct that mistake.)