Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. It is commonly associated with smoking. If you’ve never smoked a cigarette before, you might believe you’re safe from getting lung cancer. But, according to some statistics, you’d be wrong. The rate of nonsmokers get this cancer are steadily increasing, especially Asian women

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. It happens due to the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the lungs. Your lungs are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen when you inhale and release carbon dioxide when you exhale.

It is the third most common cancer in males and females in Singapore respectively. During the five-year period from 2014 – 2018, it is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Singapore which is 26.4% in man and 15.7% in women.

A doctor is checking lungs for an old woman
The rate of nonsmokers get lung cancer are steadily increasing, especially Asian women

Lung cancer symptoms in Nonsmokers

The symptoms are the same for smokers. The signs and symptoms may include:

  • A new cough that doesn’t go away
  • Coughing up blood, even a small amount
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Bone pain
  • Feeling tired all the time.

These symptoms can happen with other illnesses. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor, who can help find the cause.

What causes Lung Cancer in Nonsmokers?

Here are the top reasons:

  • Secondhand smoke: Smoke breathed in from another person’s cigarette or tobacco product.
  • DNA mutation: Such as a mutation in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene or other genes
  • Radon gas: Exposure to radon gas is considered to be one of the causes of lung cancer in nonsmokers, accounting for about 21,000 deaths each year. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that trickles into homes from the ground and doesn’t smell. It has been found in concentrated amounts inside some homes that were built on soil that contains natural uranium deposits
  • Other environmental factors: Air pollution from vehicles, diesel exhaust, asbestos, and arsenic
  • Family history: People with a family history of lung cancer have a greater risk of developing cancer themselves. This is especially true if you have a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) who developed this disease before age 50.

 How can I lower the chance of getting it?

  • Staying away from secondhand smoke, diesel exhaust, and other air pollution.
  • If lung cancer runs in your family, consult a doctor about actions you can take to stay healthy
  • Get your home tested for radon and take steps to lower the radon level if it is high.
  • Seek medical care if you develop any early symptoms such as a nagging, persistent cough, loss of energy, unexplained weight loss, chest pain
  • And remember to do the health screening regularly to detect the disease from an early stage
Health screening regularly help to detect lung cancer from early stage
Health screening regularly help to detect lung cancer from an early stage

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Reference: CDC USA, Lung Cancer Among People Who Never Smoked

Singapore Cancer Society, Lung cancer