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How many non-smokers get lung cancer?

There is probably about a 10 percent rate of lung cancer in nonsmokers being caused by radon exposure. Other things like asbestos exposure can also put you at risk. Those are obviously things that we can avoid, but there's clearly a trend that we've seen over the past several years that shows an increase in the number of cases of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke is also a big contributor as well.

Dr. Thomas A. Hensing, MD
Hematologist & Oncologist

About 10 percent of people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Some of these patients have had some secondhand smoke exposure, but the majority did not. It sounds like a small number, but in the United States, that’s 20,000 to 25,000 people a year who have never smoked who get lung cancer. And worldwide, it’s more common than diseases like Hodgkin’s disease and other malignancies.

About 10 percent. Certain types of lung cancer such as adenocarcinoma are more likely to be found in nonsmokers, but lung cancer is overwhelmingly caused by tobacco smoke. The more common causes of lung cancer in nonsmokers include radon exposure, secondhand tobacco smoke, air pollution, work exposure and genetic factors.

Dr. Robert M. Jotte, MD
Hematologist & Oncologist

There is probably about a 10 percent rate of lung cancer in nonsmokers being caused by radon exposure. Other things like asbestos exposure can also put you at risk. Those are obviously things that we can avoid, but there's clearly a trend that we've seen over the past several years that shows an increase in the number of cases of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke is also a big contributor as well.

Lung cancer kills more adults than any other type of cancer, and this includes non-smokers. About 6.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime, but only about 10 percent of these will be non-smokers.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.