Causes, Symptoms, Types & Risks of Lung Cancer In Non Smokers

Submitted by Nic on March 14, 2013

Lung cancer in non smokers is as real a threat as it is in smokers. What makes it worse is that while you, as a non-smoker, might make sure your life is healthy and without any vices, but being around smokers can cause much deadly damage to you, as it does to smokers!

Non smokers face a big risk of cancer from second hand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke. As a preventable cause of cancer, it is one factor that leads to many cancer-related deaths in the US. Roughly 3,000 deaths each year are attributed to cancer patients who have cancer due to second hand smoke.


Second hand smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, 50 of which are believed to cause cancer. Inhaling this smoke, even inadvertently, can cause cancer. Just segregating sections is not enough as the air tends to still contain the harmful carcinogens despite not sitting with smokers.


Primary symptoms of lung cancer are usually easily identified.

  • Cough that doesn't go away
  • Bloody sputum
  • Recurring bronchial infections like pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever, body pain, and headaches
  • Difficulty swallowing

If the cancer is more serious or more advanced, there could be other symptoms depending on which organ is affected like affected kidneys, liver or the brain.


Lung cancer is primarily of two types

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer or SCLC which is not as common but much more dangerous and prolific.
  • Non Small-Cell Lung Cancer or NSCLC, which is the more common variety in lung cancer and can be contained if diagnosed on time.

These cancers are divided further.

SCLC has two distinct types:

  • Small cell carcinoma or oat cell cancer - by far the more common kind of SCLC
  • Combined small cell carcinoma

In NSCLC, there are three types:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma - up to 30 percent of cases of NSCLC are squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma - This type is the most common in NSCLC
  • Large cell carcinoma - This type accounts for about 10-15 percent of total cases


Everyone is at risk if they prevail in an environment filled with cigarette smoke. There is no acceptable level in a smoke-free environment. Prevention is the best way to reduce exposure to second hand smoke.

  • Children are particularly susceptible, especially premature babies. Smoke can affect the development of their respiratory systems, especially in premature babies.
  • Second hand smoke leads to many deaths in infants as well. Second hand smoke can affect foetuses too.
  • Children of smoking parents tend to have a higher risk of contracting lung cancer. Lungs tend to under develop in children who are constantly in a smoking environment.
  • Along with cancer, which is a life-threatening disease, constant exposure to cigarette smoke also leads to chronic breathing issues, like asthma and bronchial infections. This incidence is much worse in kids who are continually exposed to cigarette smoke.

Parents have to make sure that they are not around anyone who smokes. You have to also remember to not smoke in the house, not smoke when anyone is pregnant and generally take additional precautionary measures. Teach your child to stay away from smoke. Sometimes the carcinogens in the cigarette smoke also cling to the clothes of the smoker so just not smoking indoors might not help. If you have a history of cancer in the family it would help for you to stay away from smoking and smokers altogether.

Take simple steps like create good ventilation in the home, do not encourage people to smoke in the house and specify non-smoking facilities everywhere.


More articles from the Health Articles Category