Are non-smokers still at risk for lung disease?

Although lung disease is often thought of as being a smoker’s problem, non-smokers can and do suffer from a variety of different conditions. Smokers still have much higher risks of being diagnosed with lung conditions, but being a non-smoker doesn’t mean you can ignore your lung health. Here is a look at some of the conditions non-smokers can still develop.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It encompasses both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The vast majority of people with COPD are smokers, but as the video explains, non-smokers are still vulnerable.

There are many factors that increase the risk of COPD in non-smokers, such as:

  • Occupational hazards, such as being routinely exposed to chemical fumes and dust
  • Secondhand smoke exposure
  • Genetic predisposition
  • GERD—Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Air pollution

Lung cancer
According to the American Cancer Society , about 20% of people who die from lung cancer are non-smokers. Based on the number of non-smokers who lose their lives to the disease, lung cancer would still be among the deadliest cancers if only non-smoker statistics were considered.

Many of the same risk factors that increase the odds of COPD also increase the risk of lung cancer, especially secondhand smoke. Some other factors that have been associated with lung cancer in non-smokers include:

  • Radon Gas
  • Asbestos
  • Gene Mutations

Pulmonary fibrosis
Pulmonary fibrosis is an interstitial lung disease that causes scarring in the lungs and the thickening of pulmonary passageways. These changes make it difficult for oxygen to get the blood stream, which causes chronic shortness of breath.

Risk factors for non-smokers for pulmonary fibrosis are similar to COPD and lung cancer. People with these autoimmune conditions also have a greater chance of developing pulmonary fibrosis:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Scleroderma
  • Progressive systemic sclerosis
  • Polymyositis/dermatomyositis

With all forms of lung disease, early diagnosis leads to better outcomes. If you believe you could have a lung condition, contact Good Samaritan Hospital for a referral to a specialist. Our hospital in San Jose offers comprehensive care, including lung cancer screenings and cancer care . Dial (888) 724-2362 for a referral.

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