How a Non-Smoker Can Develop Lung Cancer

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on1 April 2021

Why a Non-Smoker Can Get Lung Cancer, Too

If you’re like most people, the first thing that comes to mind when you know somebody has lung disease is if they’re a smoker. But there is also a lot more to that.

The reality is that you can develop the disease even though you’ve never touched a cigarette. There are a number of explanations why this may arise, however you will reduce your risk by taking these steps.

First, be aware of some of the factors that contribute to lung cancer in people who do not smoke.


Secondhand smoke

There are two types: the smoke that a smoker exhales and the smoke that a cigarette, pipe, or cigar creates. Both are harmful to your health.

And though you’d never consider smoking a cigarette, being with someone else does expose you to toxic chemicals. Secondhand smoke contains at least 70 different types of carcinogens.

There are no safe levels of secondhand smoke, so aim to avoid it as much as possible. Make a commitment to keep the house and vehicle tobacco-free.


It’s a gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock. It’s translucent, odourless, and tasteless. Low amounts of the substance are a normal part of the air outside, so it’s more likely to be a concern indoors. It may enter by cracks in the floors or walls from the ground.

If you inhale radon for an extended period of time, you may develop lung cancer. This is because it degrades into small particles that can enter the lungs and cause damage to the cells there. Apart from smoke, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer.

You may use a detector kit to see how much is in your house or pay a specialist to do it for you. It’s a good idea to partner with a provider that has worked with this problem previously if the levels are too high. They can use techniques such as sealing cracks in your floors and walls, as well as other ways, to help minimise the amount of gas in your house.



It’s a category of minerals that were often used in construction materials and products before researchers discovered that they were toxic.

The fibres become trapped deep in the lungs as you breathe them in, and may contribute to lung cancer over time. The more asbestos you come into contact with, the greater your risk.

It can be seen in areas like steam pipes or tiles in older houses. Unless the substance is broken and fibres are released, it is not a danger. If you need it repaired or removed, employ a qualified specialist.


Changes in the DNA of the lung cells recognised as “mutations," will also result in cancer. This can happen in a variety of ways.

For eg, you might be born with chromosome number 6 defects that make you more susceptible to lung cancer. Alternatively, you might have a lower natural ability to remove toxins from the body that may cause cancer.

Another explanation is that the body is unable to restore damaged DNA, placing you at increased risk when subjected to contaminants that may induce lung cancer.

There are no tests yet to see whether you have all of these genetic problems. Avoiding things that are proven to raise the risk of having the disease is your best option.


Air pollution

Dust, smoke, and contaminants in the environment affect around 1% to 2% of lung cancers.

Polluted weather, according to researchers, will trigger DNA changes that set the stage for higher risk of the disease. The more air pollutants you take in, the more probable you are to develop this cancer.



What you eat will have an impact on the quality of your lungs. The glycemic index, which determines how rapidly a carbohydrate increases blood sugar, has been related to lung cancer risk in a recent report.

In one report, researchers discovered that people who consumed a high-glycemic-index diet have a greater chance of developing the disease. White bread, sugary cereals, white rice, pretzels, and popcorn are also things that may cause complications. Whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, lentils, and certain fruits are better alternatives.

Experts remain baffled as to whether a high-glycemic diet is linked to lung cancer. One potential explanation is that it raises blood sugar levels, which causes insulin-like growth factors to rise. They can play a role in the progression of the disease, according to prior studies.

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