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Is Lung Cancer Different in Non or Never-Smokers?

*April 2022*

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Lung cancer in non-smokers is more common than many people realize. In fact, lung cancer in never-smokers is now considered the 6th most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Each year lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Although a majority of these deaths are caused by smoking, 10%-15% occur among individuals who never smoked.

Though we lump smokers and non-smokers together when discussing lung cancer, lung cancer in non-smokers may be a different disease.

Some studies suggest women who are non-smokers are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer than men who are non-smokers and this percentage is significantly higher in Asian women.2

What Causes Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers?

  • Radon Exposure to radon gas in our homes is a cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
  • Secondhand smoke is thought to be responsible for roughly 3,000 lung cancer deaths yearly in the U.S.
  • Exposure to asbestos remains an important cause of mesothelioma lung cancer.
  • Individuals with a family history of lung cancer appear more likely to develop lung cancer.