World Lung Cancer Day 2022: Why Most Smokers Don’t Get Lung Cancer, Expert Answers

Smoking is said to be the primary cause of lung cancer but is it? We spoke to a doctor to find out.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarPublished at: Aug 01, 2022Updated at: Aug 01, 2022
World Lung Cancer Day 2022: Why Most Smokers Don’t Get Lung Cancer, Expert Answers

Most lung cancers are caused by smoking, in both smokers and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke. However, nonsmokers and those who have never been exposed to secondhand smoke for an extended period of time are also susceptible to lung cancer. There may not be a definite aetiology of lung cancer in certain situations. We reached out to Dr. Pratik Patil, Consultant - Medical Oncologist, Sahyadri Hospitals, Pune to get answers to some of the very raging questions on smoking and lung cancer.

Smoking harms the lungs' lining cells, which leads to lung cancer. The lung tissue changes immediately after inhaling cigarette smoke, which is loaded with cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). Your body might be able to repair this harm initially. However, the healthy cells that line your lungs suffer increased harm with each subsequent exposure. Damage over time results in aberrant cell behaviour, which may eventually lead to the development of cancer.(Click here to know methods of lung cancer diagnosis)

Are smokers more prone to developing lung cancer?

According to Dr. Patil, factors that can raise your risk of developing lung cancer include consuming tobacco, secondhand smoking (passive smoking), asbestos contamination, exposure to  radon (radioactive gas), exposure to noxious materials at work such as soot, diesel fumes, nickel, cadmium, and arsenic, having HIV, family history, history of lung conditions like emphysema or lung fibrosis and older age.

Also Read: Can Tobacco Cause Lung Cancer? Oncologist Explains Risk Factors, Symptoms & Prevention

The risk of developing lung cancer or passing away from it is 15–30 times higher in smokers than in nonsmokers. Lung cancer risk is increased even by light cigarette smoking. The risk increases with the number of years and cigarettes smoked each day.

Is there actually a link between smoking and lung cancer?

Smokers Don’t Get Lung Cancer

Numerous substances enter your lungs when you breathe in cigarette smoke. Numerous of these substances have the capacity to harm your lung cells' DNA. The damage that these chemicals create will be repaired by your body, but smoking can eventually do more harm than good. This could eventually result in the development of cancerous cells. The little air sacs in your lungs known as alveoli can also become damaged from inhaling cigarette smoke. The focal point of gas exchange in your respiratory system is these small air sacs. When you breathe out, they release carbon dioxide while transferring oxygen into your circulation. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may develop as a result of the damage to the alveoli in your lungs over time.

Also Read: Do You Know What Happens In Your Body When You Quit Smoking?

Why Do Most Smokers Don’t Get Lung Cancer?

Usually, doctors recommend people quit smoking to avoid lung cancer, however, recently there has been a study that suggests most lifelong smokers don’t develop lung cancer. One latest research suggests that some smokers who have never developed lung cancer have a lining of surface cells in their lungs that are less likely to mutate over time. Besides, they might have stronger genes that repair DNA and prevent surface cells from turning cancerous. “These lung cells survive for years, even decades, and thus can accumulate mutations with both age and smoking. Data suggest that these individuals may have survived for so long in spite of their heavy smoking because they managed to suppress further mutation accumulation. This levelling off of mutations could stem from these people having very proficient systems for repairing DNA damage or detoxifying cigarette smoke,” the researchers explain in their paper.

However more research is needed in this aspect and we advise people to quit smoking as it continues to remain as one of the biggest risk factors for lung cancer.

Are there any warning signs for which a smoker or non-smoker should look out?

Common Warning signs for lung cancer in smokers to keep an eye on include:

  • Chronic Cough: Lung cancer patients frequently complain of a persistent cough; a chronic cough lasts for at least eight weeks.
  • Respiratory Infections: Infections that recur frequently include bronchitis and pneumonia due to lung tumours' ability to obstruct airways.
  • Coughing up blood: Even if it's just a little bit of blood, you should still call your doctor if you cough up blood or bloody mucus.
  • Breathlessness: Lung cancer can cause the airway to constrict, which makes breathing difficult.
  • Hoarseness: People with lung cancer may have a raspy voice due to persistent coughing or a tumour that is interfering with their vocal cords.
  • Chest pain:  If a lung tumour presses on nerves or tightens the chest, you may experience chest pain, which is often worse when you cough, laugh, or breathe deeply.

What lifestyle changes should one bring to avoid lung cancer?

Quit smoking

Smoking impairs tissue recovery and raises the chance of problems from surgical operations. Additionally, it might aggravate already-irritated lungs from radiation or chemotherapy. When you stop smoking, your body starts to heal itself right away. Quitting will increase recovery from therapy and strengthen your immune system, which will help fight cancer. Additionally, it will lower your risk of developing new cancers.

Why Most Smokers Don’t Get Lung Cancer

Make dietary changes

Your body and mind can benefit from a healthy diet. Your diet can give your body the energy it needs to function at its peak and the nutrition it needs for tissue healing and recovery. Proper nutritional assistance will also improve mood and general energy. A balanced diet should contain a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

Exercise regularly

If you haven't been exercising frequently, talk to your doctor about the best exercises for you. The numerous advantages of even light exercise may help you cope with the mental and physical strains of cancer and cancer treatment. Additionally, it helps support general fitness and increase your energy. enhancing your mental stability, boosting your spirits, and strengthening your immune system

Second Hand Smoke

Living with a smoker increases your risk of developing lung cancer by 20% to 30%:

  • Visit smoke-free restaurants, hotels and bars
  • Do not allow people to smoke inside your home or car
  • Ask family, friends, and caregivers not to smoke around you or your children
  • Teach your kids about secondhand smoke and how to avoid it

Which tests should one undergo for screening for lung cancer?

Cancer screening tests seek to detect the disease before symptoms appear and/or when it could be more manageable to treat. Low-dose computed tomography is the screening method for lung cancer that is advised (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). A low dose (amount) of radiation is used by an X-ray machine while you are lying on a table during an LDCT scan to get precise images of your lungs. The scan is painless and just takes a few minutes.

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