Top 5 Lung Cancer Causes in Non-Smokers

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Other than smoking tobacco, lung cancer has many risk factors. Learn about the top five causes of lung cancer in non-smokers.
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"If you"re a smoker, you probably already know you need to quit so you can reduce the likelihood of developing lung cancer. But for non-smokers, it may come as a surprise that smoking isn"t the only cause of lung cancer. People receiving a lung cancer diagnosis who have never smoked before account for between 10 and 20% of all lung cancer cases! That"s why it"s important to know about risk factors that can increase the risk of developing this disease.

1. Radon Exposure is Associated with Lung Cancer
This chemical is a naturally-occurring gas produced by the radioactive decay of the element radium. Most radon exposure happens inside homes, schools, and workplaces, but you would never know it because it has no odor. Over time, inhaling this gas can cause lung cancer. Test your home for radon or install a radon mitigation system if tests show that you have high levels of radon in your home or workplace. Data from the Oregon Health Authority indicates that areas around the Willamette Valley are at moderate risk of radon exposure. Learn how to test for radon and what to do to lower your exposure.

2. Lung Cancer-Causing Agents
Breathing or consuming cancer-causing agents like benzene and asbestos can cause lung cancer. When exposed to these carcinogens regularly, they can eventually build up inside your lungs, causing the cells to mutate and form cancer. They can also remain in your system for some time after exposure, so make sure to do what you can to avoid contact with these harmful substances.

3. Air Pollution
Exposure to high levels of air pollution may cause lung cancer by triggering DNA damage, leading to tumor growth. The risk of developing lung cancer increases the longer you are around high levels of air pollution, so it's important to take precautions to minimize exposure.

While we live in the Willamette Valley or on the coast to avoid pollution from larger metropolises as much as possible, you may still have been exposed to various toxins more than you realize. Think back to where you've lived, what type of work you've done, or even hobbies you've enjoyed as you consider whether a symptom could potentially be related to lung cancer.

4. Secondhand Smoke Can Lead to Lung Cancer
You have a greater risk of developing lung cancer the more exposure you have to secondhand smoke. If you live with someone who smokes, consider talking with your partner or roommate about smoking less indoors or possibly quitting altogether. If you visit friends and family members who smoke, consider taking those visits outside as often as possible to minimize smoke contact.

The chemicals from cigarettes leave a residue that stays on your clothes, bedding, upholstery, and other areas in the house that go into the lungs of the non-smoker. This can lead to lung cancer.

5. Genetic Mutations Related to Lung Cancer
Lung cancer most often develops as a result of somatic mutations, or mutations that cannot be passed down through the family. Instead, these genetic changes are acquired during a person's lifetime and are present only in certain cells in the lung. Somatic mutations in the TP53, EGFR, and KRAS genes are common in lung cancers. While some of these mutations are related to smoking, not all of them are.

Sometimes, lung cancer cases have no apparent cause. Understanding the likely causes of lung cancer can help you make informed decisions about reducing your risk."

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