Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers

Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers

More and more often, I come across situations of nonsmokers who develop lung cancer. My attention is always drawn to news of this character because my husband passed away at the age of 51 from cancer of the brain and lung. He never smoked a day in his life.

The complacency non-smokers have shared over the years is no longer a viable option. Smokers and non-smokers alike are unprotected to a disease which is largely incurable. Among patients with this problem, only about 14% live five years after their diagnosis.

In the confront of a disease that seems to have neither rhyme nor reason, what can we do to protect ourselves? First, estimate your risk for this form of cancer; then take measures to prevent the disease.

What are the risk factors for this kind of cancer?

Gender: Unfortunately, women seem to be more unprotected to this disease. Research has shown that female smokers are more prone to the cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarettes. In another study, a gene connected to abnormal lung cancer cell growth was found to be more active in women than in men. It did not matter whether the women smoked or not.

A family history of lung cancer: Evidence indicates that there is a gene which predisposes offspring to develop lung cancer. However, the evidence is far from conclusive as the situation is made difficult by the fact that offspring of smokers have been exposed to a smoking ecosystem since childhood and would consequently have a greater risk for developing the disease.

Scarring from past lung disease: Scarring in lungs caused by tuberculosis or other lung disease can be a risk factor for this form of lung problem.

Second-hand smoke: Exposure to second-hand smoke has been shown to be a definite risk factor. Your risk increases by 30 percent from daily exposure to second-hand smoke. This is probably the most meaningful risk factor for lung cancer in non-smokers.

Exposure to radon: Radon is an odorless gas than can pass by slowly out of the soil into buildings. Worse however, the gas can pass by slowly from the soil into water near residential communities. Radon has been indicated as a possible cause of lung cancer.

Air pollution: Long-term occupational exposure to diesel exhaust fumes may increase lung cancer risk by 47%. Air pollution in general is a risk factor in the general population. Swedish researchers calculate that as many as 1 in 10 situations of lung cancer may be caused by air pollution in the Swedish capital city, Stockholm.

Past Cancer Treatment: Researchers in Sweden who looked at the medical records of 140,000 breast cancer patients found that there was an increase of lung cancer 5 to 20 years after breast cancer treatment. Suspicion is that radiotherapy in the chest area may have made the lungs more prone to the disease.

Estrogen substitute Therapy: According to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, estrogen may fuel the growth of non small-cell cancer of the lung.

What preventative measures can we take?

Diet: An apple a day may keep this disease away. A Finnish study indicates that apples not only keep doctors away, but provide protection for the lungs in addition. This study found that people who ate the most apples were 58 % less likely to develop this form of cancer. Other studies suggest that this cancer risk is lower among smokers and non smokers who ate at the minimum 5 servings of vegetables and fruits daily.

Beta Carotene: A high intake of beta carotene compounds can lower your cancer risk; however, studies also show that the beta carotene is only effective when the compounds are ingested from whole foods such as peaches, melon, carrots, mangoes, dark leafy vegetables, squash etc. The opposite effect seems to take place with beta carotene supplements. A Finnish study reported 18% more lung cancer situations among heavy smokers who took beta carotene supplements. And a National Cancer Study on the effects of vitamin A and beta carotene was halted because smokers taking the supplements had 28% more cancer than those taking a placebo.

Selenium and Vitamin C: Taking selenium supplements on a long-term basis has been shown to decline the incidence of lung cancer. In one study, people taking 55-200 mcg of the mineral daily had a 46% lower rate of lung cancer. in addition, studies indicate that people who take less than 90 mg of vitamin C on a daily basis may have a 90% higher risk of lung cancer than those who take 140mg or more.

Avoid second-hand smoke and check your house for radon.

There are never guarantees in life, but it makes perfectly good sense to take some preventative measures as these can not only enhance your overall quality of health and life but also prevent lung cancer.

Copyright 2006 Mary Desaulniers

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