Can a Non-Smoker Get Lung Cancer Too?

Lung cancer in non-smokers

A common misconception is that if a person has lung cancer, he/she is a very heavy smoker. But today, we are going to break the myth and prove that a person who is a non-smoker can very much be affected by lung cancer. Did you know that in the US, lung cancer is the 6th common cause of death among non-smokers? Going by the overall statistics, 10 – 15% of the lung cancer cases occur in non-smokers and 2/3rds of those non-smokers are women. It has been found out that 20% lung cancers in women occur in those who have never smoked even one cigarette. And the percentage is comparatively higher among Asian women.

Lung Cancer in India:

We are not denying the fact that smoking tobacco, be it in the form of cigarettes or beedis is the primary cause of lung cancer in men. But in cases of women, lung cancer is not particularly related to tobacco smoking and there is a high chance that other risk factors are involved. Here are some factors that are unique to India that might trigger the formation of malignant tumors and cancer in the lungs.

  • Indoor Air pollution
  • A polluted environment with some cities in India where the Air Quality Index (AQI) is hazardous
  • Second-hand smoking
  • Exposure  to domestic or biomass fuel
  • Presence or lack of micronutrients in our diet
  • Occupational exposure
  • Infectious pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis 

The rising causes of Lung Cancer in a non-smoker:

Although lung cancer is still quite common in smokers, the number of lung cancer cases among non-smokers in rising. Here are some risk factors that contribute the lung cancer among non-smokers:

  • Passive smoking:

Passive or second-hand smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.  It has been found out that non-smokers residing in the same quarters or workspace as a smoker have an increased 24% risk of developing lung cancer.

  • Radon Gas:

When nature plans otherwise, it is unavoidable. The formation of radon gas with the decay of uranium leads to lung cancer too and it is a natural cause. Radon gas can travel up through the soil and can enter homes through foundation, wall or floor cracks, pipelines, drains and other openings. Long-term exposure to radon gas can cause lung cancer among non-smokers. There are a number of uranium mines in India too.

  • Asbestos:

It is a group of minerals used in building and construction supplies. Though the toxicity of this mineral had led to its ban from India, still it is used widely in roofing sheets, insulation, cement pipes, and gasket sheets. Exposure to this mineral causes lung cancer and those working in asbestos producing factories have five times more chances of developing lung cancer. It is an occupational hazard.

  • Air pollution:

Industrial smoke, vehicular smoke, smoke from power plants are the leading causes of air pollution and it is horrendous in India. Some cities in India have been tagged as gas chambers owing to the intensity of air pollution in those regions. Prolonged exposure to such toxic air increases the risk of developing lung cancer among non-smokers. 

   Also, read:

     How Air Pollution Affects us in Many Ways

     Pollution in Delhi and its long-term health hazards

     Why respiratory problems on the rise in Hyderabad

  • Genetics:

Another cause that has been attributed to lung cancer is hereditary. If there is a history of lung cancer running in your family, chances are that you might develop lung cancer too.

It is therefore important that you take proper precaution before stepping out. Also, keep a safe distance when you see someone smoking close to you. Keep going for regular checkups too. However, if you are a smoker, it is high time you give up smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products altogether.

Take precautions and lower your risk of developing lung cancer.





All the information provided on is only for awareness regarding healthcare. Its our kind request to contact your doctor before trying any suggestion on web. The aim of our healthtips page is to provide you health related information & make you aware of your health. Your doctor has much more knowledge & insights about your health and you should never ignore their advice. Its our humble request to all our readers to never blindly follow any health content available on web.