Researchers in Canada have discovered that lung cancer found in smokers is genetically different and even appears different from lung cancer found in non-smokers. In the Montreal Gazette, Pamela Fayerman describes the research conducted on 30 non-smokers and 53 smokers or previous smokers. In their findings, there was a significantly higher number of mutations in the cancer cells found in non-smokers than in cancer cells found in smokers, or those who had previously smoked, suggesting different causes. The ramifications of this research are significant. If the two cancers are different diseases, then one treatment may not work as well for the other.
As a non-smoker, I am somewhat fearful of lung cancer. I’ve watched my father die from cancer, and have other family members who are risking lung cancer by refusing to quit smoking. It is a terrible, debilitating disease, and is quite preventable. The article states that 15 percent of lung cancer victims are non-smokers. If that is true, then at least 85 percent of lung cancer occurrences are preventable. The habit is too hard to quit, people say. My mother quit smoking, my girlfriend quit smoking, and others in my life have quit smoking. It can be done, and there are numerous ways to try to quit.
My fear regarding this article is that it will be used as “proof” by the numerous smoking interests and free-market-oriented smoking ban opponents that second-hand smoke isn’t the cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. They’ll say, “Non-smokers get a different kind of lung cancer, so second-hand smoke doesn’t affect others.” The article doesn’t say this. In fact, Web MD states that “non-smokers who reside with a smoker have a 24% increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with other non-smokers.”
Much of the country has woken up to the fact that smoking kills and cigarettes have been banned from many public places in numerous states. Sure, smokers have rights. But those rights, like others, have limits. They end where they put other lives in danger. You have freedom of speech, yet you can’t yell “fire” in a public theater. You can’t threaten to kill someone. You have freedom of religion, but you can’t practice polygamy even if it’s a tenant of your religion. Nowhere to be found in the Constitution is the right to smoke in public. And yet, if you want to smoke in the privacy of your own home, in your yard, in your car (provided you aren’t filling your child’s lungs with cigarette smoke), fine. But it’s not a matter of “If you don’t like smoke, don’t go to that restaurant or bar.” Choosing to be cavalier with your own life is one thing; harming others is completely different.
Fayerman, Pamela. (November 10, 2010). Lung Cancer in Smokers Looks Different than in Non-smoker. The Montreal Gazette.
WegMD. (2010). Lung Cancer Causes.