Food for Thought: Smoking is not the Only Risk to Lung Cancer

By Dr. Sachin Gupta in Medical Oncology , Cancer Care / Oncology

Nov 08 , 2020 | 2 min read

While smoking is an undisputed cause of lung cancer the fact is, not all cases registered, occur in former or present smokers. Each year, lakhs of people develop lung cancer, and 10% of those are non-smokers. Ever thought about it?

Not many people realise it, but lung cancer is more common in non-smokers and is, in fact, the 6th most common cause of cancer deaths all across the globe. We at Max Healthcare take pride in being termed as the best cancer hospital in Delhi and here we make use of this platform in educating the masses about some of the common conditions other than smoking that leads to cancer.

Passive Smoking

Passive smoking or second-hand smoking has become a leading cause of cancer. If you live with someone who smokes, your chances of falling prey to lung cancer increases by 24% as compared to those living with nonsmokers. Keeping this in mind, many countries have banned smoking in public places to keep non-smokers away from falling prey to this dangerous disease.

Radon Gas

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that forms when uranium decays. Exposure to radon gas in a harmful amount is another leading cause of cancer in non-smokers. Radon occurs naturally outdoors in an amount that is harmless, but at times, in homes that are built on soil with natural uranium deposits may make the gas concentrated and harmful for those living in it. Because this gas can neither be inhaled nor seen, the only way to diagnose its presence in the house is by getting the air professionally tested.


Once inhaled, asbestos can get stuck in the lining of the lungs (pleural lining) or in lung tissue and can become a cancer-causing agent in both locations. Asbestos stuck in the pleural lining can lead to pleural mesothelioma (PM). People are exposed to asbestos in two different ways:

Believe it or not, asbestos fibres can also be swallowed. This occurs when one consumes any liquid or food contaminated with asbestos. For example, the consumption of water that flows through asbestos cement pipes can contaminate the body with asbestos fibres and thus lead to lung cancer.

The most natural way is by inhaling asbestos fibres present in the air. Whether someone is working on the demolition of any old building or in an industry where asbestos is mined and processed, the chances of inhaling harmful asbestos fibres increase in such situations.  

Other chemicals that can also become a cause of triggering lung cancer include arsenic beryllium, cadmium, vinyl chloride, nickel compounds, chromium compounds, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers and diesel exhaust.



Past medical history of the family plays an equally important role in determining the health of the coming generations. Many studies have shown that lung cancer occurs in both smokers and non-smokers in a family that has it running in the blood. Surprisingly, cancer caused due to hereditary is higher in women and non-smokers.

Air Pollution

Industrial development and the constant increase of vehicles on the road has increased the risk of developing lung cancer in individuals. Breathing polluted air 24*7 has led to more than 2000 deaths per year, and prolonged exposure can also make it equal to passive smoking. Many countries have started taking measures to control air pollution to keep the residents safe and away from getting exposed to polluted air.

Now that you are aware of the other risks that can lead to lung cancer, make sure you are keeping yourself and your family away from them. Healthy practices will help you and the people around have a life away from harmful diseases. Take care!