It is now suspected that lung cancer in smokers is an entirely different type of cancer than lung cancer in non-smokers. Preliminary findings in a three-year Canadian study of lung cancer indicate that the DNA inside the lung cancer tumors mutates differently in smokers than in non-smokers. There is no separate treatment or diagnostic test that is being investigated yet. The study was small and only involved 30 non-smokers and 53 smokers, so the results will need to be verified with other individuals.
I do not currently and have never smoked, and my family has not had to deal with lung cancer. I was always told that lung cancer was much more prevalent in smokers than in non-smokers. It was always presented as a smoker’s disease that non-smokers mainly only got from secondhand smoke. I don’t think that perception will change at all, unless a vast majority of smokers stop smoking, which would shift the focus on the non-smoking type.
I’m probably not alone in that it worries me that the treatment and diagnosis is the same for two different types of tumors. It would seem to set back both diagnosis and treatment advancement by years for both types because previously the tumors were considered to be the same. I also wonder if it is possible for a smoker to get the non-smoker strain if there is a genetic predisposition. Or, could it be that the chemicals in the cigarettes mutate the DNA, causing the difference?
I am looking forward to seeing what the full results of the study will be. I think that public perception will change to a lack of trust in the medical society when it comes to lung cancer and secondhand smoke. Even the American Cancer Society endorses the idea that secondhand smoke is the main cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. This study would seem to contradict this belief. The argument for secondhand smoke being a main cause of lung cancer in non-smokers is that secondhand smoke is inhaling the same chemicals just passively. If that were the case, then wouldn’t the tumors have the same DNA mutations? If this study is accurate, what would cause lung cancer in non-smokers?
I think this is interesting news in the wake of the FDA’s efforts to revamp the warning labels on cigarettes by potentially placing graphics of lung disease over at least half of the pack to discourage smoking. In the United States currently, 19.5 percent of teens and 20.5 percent of adults smoke on a regular basis, which is a decrease overall from previous years. If smoking continues to decrease, as it likely would with cancer images over half the pack, then there is the real risk that the majority of cancer cases may become the non-smokers’ type. Since the medical community is accustomed to diagnosing and treating both types of lung cancer as one, this could have dire consequences.
“Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers Could be Separate Disease”, CTV News.
“Second Hand Smoke”, American Cancer Society.
Meredith Melnick “U.S. Cigarette Warning Labels are about to get Graphic”, Time.com.