Smoking tobacco has long been a known risk factor for lung cancer. Surprisingly, as smoking rates have declined, non-smokers have accounted for a higher percentage of lung cancer cases. In addition, these patients are more likely to be women.
Data comes from studies in Great Britain and the United States involving non-small cell cancer, which constitutes 85 to 90 percent of all lung cancer cases. This type is aggressive and usually detected at a later stage, particularly in non-smokers who are not screened as often due to fewer risk factors.
Over a seven-year period, British researchers discovered that the percentage of never-smokers with lung cancer more than doubled from 13 percent to 28 percent. Subjects included 2,170 patients between 2008 and 2014.
Their American counterparts had similar results in a study of lung cancer patients between 1990 and 2013. According to lead researcher Dr. Lorraine Pelosof, nine percent of non-small cell patients between 1990 and 1995 were never-smokers. In the period of 2011-2013, the percentage had grown to nearly 15 percent.
At present, researchers are stumped as to the reason for these increases, or why women are more susceptible. Ongoing studies are focusing on genetic risk and family history as possible causes in the absence of tobacco use. Dr. Pelosof also commented on the need to confirm her team’s findings, noting limitations such as the smoking history of subjects being self-reported.
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