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Nonsmokers at greater risk of lung cancer

Perhaps few types of cancer carry as much stigma as lung cancer. If doctors have diagnosed you with lung cancer, chances are you have heard comments from ill-informed people implying that you got what you deserved for smoking cigarettes. While you may not have been looking for sympathy, you certainly did not expect accusations, especially if you never smoked.

The sad fact is that more and more nonsmokers are facing the devastating diagnosis of lung cancer. In fact, about 15% of those who will receive a lung cancer diagnosis this year have never smoked cigarettes. It seems that the risk factors are growing, including exposure to certain materials on the job.

How did I get cancer?

Most studies show that smoking and second-hand smoke account for nearly 90% of deaths attributed to lung cancer. However, this is not really a clear picture. On paper, someone who smokes is almost 30% more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not smoke. However, in reality, the chances that a nonsmoker will develop cancer are surprisingly high. Some of the factors that may have placed you at risk of lung cancer include the following:

  • Radon exposure, which is the second most common factor linked to lung cancer after smoking
  • Arsenic, which may be in the chemicals, cables, textiles or other materials you handle at work
  • Diesel exhaust, whether you operate heavy machinery or work in places where exhaust accumulates
  • Asbestos, which may be in your home or in materials you work with on the job

Asbestos exposure may be especially frightening since cancers and other lung ailments that result may not begin showing symptoms for decades after your exposure. In fact, one problem with developing lung cancer as a nonsmoker is that you and your doctors may not suspect lung cancer as the cause of your symptoms. This may lead to a delayed diagnosis while your medical team looks at other causes and perhaps begins a course of treatment that will have no positive effect.

Your cancer may relate to exposure to toxic materials in your workplace or elsewhere. Whether you smoke or have never smoked, it is important that your doctor is aware of any such exposure so he or she can reach an accurate diagnosis and begin a course of treatment that may improve your quality of life. You may also wish to reach out to a Louisiana attorney to see if your situation qualifies for compensation from those responsible for your exposure to dangerous substances.

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