Lung cancer in those who smoke versus those who don’t is markedly different according to a report in the Montreal Gazette. Canadian researchers determined there are twice as many genetic abnormalities in people who don’t smoke and have lung cancer. Those who get lung cancer because of smoking have far fewer things wrong with their DNA. Scientists have known for years that smoking causes lung cancer but this is the first study that actually examined the genetic makeup of those non-smokers who die of lung cancer.
“At the current time, treatment does not distinguish between these different types,” senior scientist Wan Lam said. Understanding the causes of non-smoking lung cancer is vital to find a treatment option.
As a non-smoker myself I have never really worried about getting lung cancer. Now I might take my worry meter up a notch after these new findings.
Of all lung cancer deaths, WedMD states 80 percent in women are due to smoking and 90 percent in men are because of smoking. Secondhand smoke can also account for 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year. About 160,000 people die of lung cancer each year in America.
The most high profile case of non-smoking lung cancer I remember is Dana Reeve, wife of Christopher Reeve, who died less than a year after her husband according to CNN. I didn’t realize as many as 16,000 people die of lung cancer even if they don’t smoke.
My family has no history of lung cancer and we don’t smoke. I have some aunts and uncles who smoke but our visits to their houses are rare at best. I’m not particularly afraid of getting lung cancer but I am hopeful that new treatments will be developed.
Treatment for cancer is perhaps the scariest thing regarding having the disease. Lung cancer is one of the hardest ones to combat. In early stages, 49 percent of people with lung cancer live more than five years. The Mayo Clinic reports you have a three percent chance of living five years if the cancer has metastasized.
In my family I’m more worried about a predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease or blood pressure. One grandfather had Alzheimer’s and the other had high blood pressure. There are no other genetic predispositions for diseases that we know of. Hopefully in time doctors can be able to detect these genetic abnormalities in order to develop early tests and treatments for those who may be predisposed to lung cancer.
Fayerman, Pamela, “Lung cancer in smokers looks different than in non-smoker”, Montreal Gazette.
WebMD, “Frequently Asked Questions About Lung Cancer”, WebMD.com.
CNN, “Dana Reeve dies of lung cancer at 44”, CNN.com.
Mayo Clinic, “Cancer survival rate: What it means for your prognosis”, MayoClinic.com.