Lung cancer: Can nonsmokers get it?

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Lung cancer: Can nonsmokers get it?

Question

Can nonsmokers get lung cancer too? How is this possible?

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Answer

Lung cancer is uncommon in nonsmokers, but it does occur. The exact cause of lung cancer in people who don't smoke isn't clear. Smoking is by far the leading risk factor, accounting for 90 percent of cases of lung cancer. But other risk factors include exposure to:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Radon
  • Asbestos
  • Inhaled chemicals or minerals such as arsenic, nickel, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or haloethers

Keep in mind that much is still unknown about cancer. Some people with many risk factors never develop cancer, and others with no apparent risk factors develop cancer nonetheless.

Last Updated: 03/31/2006
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