7 Nonsmoking Causes of Lung Cancer

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Cindy Kuzma on December 18, 2020
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    Take Steps to Protect Yourself
    Tobacco contributes to about 90% of lung cancer cases. But each year, as many as 24,000 Americans who never lit up still die of the disease. In fact, lung cancer among nonsmokers alone would rank among the 10 deadliest cancers in the country. Learn about what else causes lung cancer besides smoking and ways you can protect yourself.
  • Radon Test Kit
    1. Radon
    This colorless, odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon forms when the naturally occurring element uranium in the soil breaks down and seeps into your home through leaks in the floors, walls or foundation. Use a home detection kit to test the levels in your home. If they’re high, ask your local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office for a reliable contractor to help fix it.
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    2. Family History
    People with a relative who has lung cancer may face as much as double the risk. In some cases, it’s because smokers pass on the habit to other family members. For nonsmokers, genetic mutations may play a role. You can’t change your genes, but you can take extra care of your health. Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke. You can also ask your doctor whether lung cancer screening is a good option for you.
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    3. Asbestos
    Government regulations have reduced the use of this cancer-causing fiber in buildings and products. But some older homes and businesses may still contain asbestos material. If you’re renovating an older home, ask an expert to check for asbestos. The material was used in insulation from the 1930s to the 1950s and in textured paint until 1977. If you find asbestos, hire a contractor to remove it. It’s not a DIY project.
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    4. Workplace Hazards
    On-the-job exposure to uranium, inhaled chemicals or minerals, tar and soot, or diesel exhaust may contribute to lung cancer. If you fear you might be in close contact with these or any other hazards at work, talk with your employee health and safety representative or contact the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Find an office near you.
  • Los Angeles
    5. Air Pollution
    The World Health Organization’s cancer experts officially declared outdoor air pollution a cancer-causing agent in 2013. The risks tend to be greatest in cities and other high-traffic areas. Monitor the outdoor air quality in your community. When there’s an air quality alert, avoid exercising outdoors and limit the time your children play outside.
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    6. Radiation Therapy
    People with other types of cancer, such as Hodgkin’s disease or breast cancer, can receive radiation to the chest as part of their treatment. Unfortunately, in some cases, treating one malignancy may trigger another. If you are facing cancer, talk with your doctor about your treatment options and how to balance the benefits and risks.
  • Senior woman drinking water
    7. Arsenic in Drinking Water
    Don’t turn off the tap just yet—U.S. public water systems don’t contain sufficient levels of this toxin to trigger cancer risk. But for people living in Southeast Asia and South America or who drink out of wells, arsenic may be a factor. Contact the EPA if you’re concerned.
7 Nonsmoking Causes of Lung Cancer

About The Author

  1. Asbestos. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/intheworkplace/asbestos
  2. Asbestos in the home. Consumer Product Safety Commission. http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/Home/Asbestos-In-The-Home
  3. Lung cancer prevention (PDQ®). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/lung/Patient/page1/AllPages/Print
  4. Lung cancer prevention and early detection. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lungcancer-non-smallcell/moreinformation/lungcancerpreventionandearlyde...
  5. Protect yourself. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/healthy-air/outdoor/protecting-your-health/protecting-yourself
  6. Regional & area offices. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. https://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html
  7. Uranium. Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/uranium.html
  8. What are the risk factors? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
  9. What can I do to reduce my risk? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/prevention.htm
  10. Why lung cancer strikes nonsmokers. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/why-lung-cancer-strikes-nonsmokers
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Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 18
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.