Why non-smokers are getting lung cancer

Source: BBC News

As a lung cancer researcher and patient advocate at Trinity College Dublin, Anne-Marie Baird gets mixed responses when she tells people about her profession. One of the more memorable was when, at a scientific conference, she was asked “Why would you even bother researching that? They deserve it – and they’re all going to die anyway.”

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Lung cancer is the most common cancer globally, with 1.8 million new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2012 (the most up-to-date figures available). Although 58% of new cases were in developing countries, the disease is a widespread problem – 45,000 people are diagnosed with it annually in the UK230,000 in the US and 12,500 in Australia.

Making matters worse, over the last few decades, patient survival has barely improved. In 1971-1972, the chance of surviving for 10 years after diagnosis was just 3%. By 2010-2011, 5%. Over the same period, breast cancer death rates declined by 34%.

A common view of lung cancer is that it is self-inflicted by smoking – and that the problem will eventually disappear when everyone gives up the habit. But aside from the fact that none of this helps former or current smokers who currently have the disease, there are two major flaws with this thinking.

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