January 17, 2012

Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers



     Aah, the crisp autumn weather, the warmth of a fire created by the autumnal festival of burning the formerly colorful but now deathly-brown leaves and debris that fell in plentiful amounts off the oak, maple, and apple trees.

     Aah, the homey smell of the cigar smoke as my grandfather read the evening newspaper.

     Aah, the feeling of being grown up as I trooped to the corner store to pick up cigarettes for my mother.

     The not-so-aah smell of cigarette smoke while riding in a car with one or more smoking adults, windows closed against the cold air.


     These were typical experiences in my life as a child in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I’m certain I was not alone in having these experiences of existing in extreme circumstances of air pollution.

     People who have never smoked, but who live in areas with higher air pollution levels, are roughly 20 percent more likely to die from lung cancer than people who live with cleaner air, researchers conclude in a new study…published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.*


     I tried smoking during the two months I worked as a babysitter for a young girl with two working parents. They had a cottage on Lake Erie in Canada, and they too smoked. It was the trend of the day.

     During the summer I stole (I admit that I was a thief in this instance) cigarettes from them. However, I couldn’t understand what the attraction of the cigarettes was. I concluded very quickly that smoking was a behavior that simply stole money from people, and that smoking was akin to taking your paper money and setting a match to it.

      That was the extent of my smoking life. With that exception, I have never smoked. I’m not certain that the little experimentation I did would ever put me in the category of being a smoker.


      Though smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, about one in 10 people who develop lung cancer have never smoked.*

     No, I don’t have lung cancer. I do have mild asthsma—which I attribute to both maternal and paternal hereditary. However, I wonder sometimes if it was aggravated by the leaf-burning smoke, cigar smoke, and/or the cigarette smoke I was exposed to as a child.

     In mid-November the son of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer.

     “What a shame. He never even smoked,” said John Skorupan of Cranberry, a former Penn State All-American linebacker in the early 1970s who played for the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants.*

     It has been estimated that 14 to 21 out of every 100,000 women and five to 14 out of every 100,000 men who are non-smokers get lung cancer.

Lung cancer in ‘never smokers’ is an important cancer. It’s the sixth leading cause of cancer in United States…Fine particles in air pollution can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation. This is thought to be a risk factor for lung cancer, but researchers needed to teased apart their impact from that of smoking.

     The research team took into account other cancer risk factors, such as second-hand smoke and radon exposure, and concluded that for every ten extra units of air pollution exposure, a person’s risk of lung cancer rose by fifteen to twenty-seven percent.

     Although the study team didn’t prove that the pollution caused the cancer cases, but there is  plentiful evidence that exposure to fine particles increases cardiopulmonary mortality…fine air pollution particles can injure the lungs through inflammation and damage to DNA, Previous research has suggested similar conclusions.


     How much damage was done to my lungs as I breathed in the smoke from burning leaves, cigars, and cigarettes? What, if any, long-term effects occurred?

     So far I know of no effects. Has anyone researched the effects of smoke on the occurance of sinus infections?  Just wondering…









Kudzu in Pennsylvania? OH, NO!



  1. my daughter had recurrent sinus infections as a teen we stopped the use of the woodstove and the issue was greatly resolved. I was also a child of a heavy smoker, I wonder what ill effects it had on me. I do have mild asthma and allergies. We really need to take care of our lungs, my mother smoked 30 years then quit, but the damage was done COPD took her this past fall. I don’t want that to be my destiny, I have never smoked and am exercising my lungs by singing and swimming. Take Care everyone!!

    Comment by carolynstearns (@carolynstearns) — January 17, 2012 @ 11:57 am | Reply

    • Carolyn,
      Thanks for your recent comments. I surely do appreciate them. Take care!

      Comment by carolyncholland — January 17, 2012 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

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