Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 8, 2013

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How did I get lung cancer if I never even smoked?


Anil Vachani, MD, Pulmonologist at Penn Medicine, responds:

Approximately 15% of lung cancers occur in never smokers. The major risk factors among non-smokers are occupational exposure to asbestos or other less common cancer-causing agents, radon exposure through your home, second-hand smoke, outdoor air pollution, and genetic predisposition. The most common type of lung cancer is lung adenocarcinoma. If you are a non-smoker with lung adenocarcinoma, you also have a higher likelihood of having specific mutations in your cancer that may make you more likely to respond to some newer oral chemotherapy agents that often have fewer side effects than conventional chemotherapy. This should be discussed with your oncologist, and you should consider having your tumor tested for these specific mutations

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entirel transcript from the Focus on Lung Cancer webchat.

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