Why Nonsmokers Get Lung Cancer

Lung cancerLung cancer is the top cause of U.S. cancer deaths, claiming more lives than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

Even people who have never lit a cigarette can get this deadly disease. In fact, three out of four lung cancer cases occur in people who have stopped smoking or never smoked. Learning about less common causes of lung cancer may help you avoid them.


The decay of uranium in soil releases radon, a radioactive gas that can enter homes through cracks in floors and foundations. Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blames radon for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year. To reduce your family’s risk for radon-related lung cancer, the EPA recommends you have your home tested for radon.

Secondhand Smoke

In the U.S., exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,400 deaths from lung cancer every year. Nonsmokers can face secondhand smoke at work; in public places such as restaurants, bars, and shopping areas; in their homes; and in cars, where hazardous levels of smoke can build up quickly. Your best protection: avoiding secondhand smoke.


Resistant to fire and heat, asbestos was once widely used in industry and construction. People can encounter this carcinogen at work, in their communities, and at home. However, people who develop serious illnesses most often had contact with asbestos on the job.

Family History

People also have an increased risk for lung cancer if their parents or siblings have had the disease. The increased risk could come from sharing behaviors such as smoking, living together in a house that contains radon, or inheriting a gene that makes them prone to the disease.

To reduce your risk for lung cancer, control your risk factors. If you’re a smoker or former smoker older than 55, ask your doctor if you should have a CT scan to screen for the disease.

Comprehensive Lung Cancer Care

Discover more about the Western Connecticut Health Network's lung cancer programs. To find info about screening, diagnosis, treatment options, and our expert care team, visit: