If You’re A Non-Smoker, You’re At Risk Too

The month of November is observed as Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Smoking is one of the major risk factors for lung cancer worldwide. Quitting smoking and other lifestyle changes can help cut the risk.

Lung cancer awareness month: Smoking is one of the leading causes of lung cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers not only in India but across the world, and November is observed as lung cancer month to spread awareness on various aspects of the disease. Due to increase in smoking which is considered as the leading cause for lung cancer, the disease has reached to an epidemic proportion in India. However, lung cancer can develop in non-smokers as well.

“While there are many factors that can lead to lung cancer, smoking is one of the major ones. Tobacco smoke contains various harmful substances such as, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (benzopyrene), nitrosamines (NNK, NNN), aldehydes (acrolein, formaldehyde), benzene, aromatic amines (nicotine, ABP (4-Aminobiphenyl)) and other chemicals, known to cause respiratory diseases including lung cancer”.

Dr Chandrakant M V

A Renowned Consultant Medical Oncologist at Narayana Superspeciality Hospital (Howrah)

Passive smokers are also 10-30% higher risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking cessation and adopting healthy lifestyle could decrease your risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. This will also reduce the risk of your family suffering from lung cancer due to passive smoking.

“Lung cancer is also becoming a serious concern among women, though the smoking prevalence in them is less as compared to men. There are several other factors, which could be associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer in non-smokers such as second hand smoke, indoor air pollution, occupational exposures, and genetic susceptibility. Differences in incidence and prevalence of lung cancer in women and men could be explained by these factors.”

Dr Prashant Parameswaran

Consultant at Dept. of Medical Oncology & Hematology of MVR Cancer Centre & Research Institute (Kozhikode)

Adenocarcinoma is the most common histology of lung cancer among the non-smokers. Certain genetic mutations associated with lung cancer are more common in women and non- smokers, such as mutations in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK).

“Carcinogen are agents with a capacity to cause cancer or promote formation of cancer in humans. Occupational exposure to these carcinogens increases the risk for lung cancer. Higher concentrations of carcinogen are found at certain work environment such as benzene (chemical substance found in petroleum and gasoline industry), arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium and many others. Workers and people living in such areas should take special precaution to decrease exposure to these carcinogens. Exposure to outdoor air pollution has also been associated with slight increase in risk of lung cancer. People with other risk factors when additionally exposed to outdoor pollution have significantly higher risk of developing lung cancer.”

Dr Boben Thomas

Consultant Medical & Paediatric Oncologist at Caritas Cancer Institute (Kottayam)

Dietary habits have important role in respiratory disease and lung cancer but the data is not conclusive. People who have healthy dietary habit and includes fresh fruits and vegetable in their routine tend to be at a lesser risk as compared to those who consume high fat and cholesterol rich food.


If we avoid smoking, follow good dietary habit & avoid or limit exposure to cancer causing agents, we can certainly maintain or improve our lung health and decrease our chances of developing lung cancer.

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

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