16,000 to 24,000 non-smoking lung cancer deaths occur per year in the US. Most people are not aware of that figure with the many articles about smoking and second-hand smoke. Most people feel they don’t have to worry about lung cancer because they live a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle. These non-smoker deaths prove that this misconception is foolish and could cost you your life.
My husband and I just lost a close friend this week from Stage 5 lung cancer. He was known as a health nut, hiked, never smoked, had no genetic family links, no obvious factors toward developing lung cancer. No markers but he died this past Friday, after having been misdiagnosed by these doctors. His death prompted this article. Those of us with a healthy lifestyle need to be aware we can still get cancer, including lung cancer, even though the odds are reduced.
Why was our friend’s life cut short? What Went Wrong? The Real Diagnosis was missed and ignored.
Months before his death, our friend was put on a heart medication that can cause a cough. As things went along, the cough did not go away. Finally he went to his doctor. He was told it was the medication, not to worry, no markers for lung cancer. He began to experience fatigue, weight loss, and generally felt awful. The cough got so bad; he was up all night with coughing spells. His girl friend urged him after a few weeks to go to Urgent Care. They diagnosed him with pneumonia because of his lack of markers for lung cancer. They prescribed him antibiotics without a chest x-ray or lab tests. After several weeks went by, it was clear the antibiotics were not working. Instead he was feeling sicker, more fatigues, and losing more weight. He was next sent to a lung specialist. His lung specialist put him in ICU, again with a diagnosis of pneumonia. When the tests for pneumonia came back negative in ICU, they finally called for more extensive tests. The diagnosis came back as Stage 4 lung cancer. Less than two weeks after having being admitted to ICU, he went downhill rapidly, his lungs filled with fluid, they stopped working and he died. Friends, family, everyone was shocked.
Early Diagnosis Extends and Saves Lives
Earlier diagnosis of his lung cancer might have bought him some time to get his legal affairs in order, more time to enjoy his family, and more time period. In his case, the symptoms did not appear until six months before he died. His symptoms didn’t intensify until the last three months. The cough, loss of weight, fatigue, and other symptoms should have flagged him for a chest x-ray much sooner. His lack of lifestyle factors for developing lung cancer caused the doctors to ignore the real cause of his symptoms. They didn’t do their job.
What can cause lung cancer in a non-smoker?
According to research by the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Amsterdam , the main causes of lung cancer in non-smokers is environmental and work place factors.
#1: Radon gas is responsible for 20,000 deaths per year from lung cancer. Radon gas becomes concentrated in homes built over soil with uranium deposits. Radon gas cannot be detected except by a testing device. It has no odor nor can it be seen. Coal burning stoves are another source of lung cancer.
#2: Workplace air contamination includes many different chemicals, asbestos, diesel, silica, wood dust, metals such as aluminum, solvents, hair and nail chemicals, and even toner ink. Research in the UK proved that many printers, especially laser jet printers, emit nano bits of toner into the air around the printer. Installing new ink cartridges emits more toner. Only a small percentage of the thousands of chemicals used in the production of goods have been tested in relation to our health.
A: Printer Ink: Chronic exposure to newspaper ink seems to be associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, particularly if the ink used contains benzo[a]pyrene. One study done with over 9000 print workers in Manchester found that there is a 73% increased risk for lung cancer for those who have worked in a letterpress for 30 years or more, relative to those who worked for 20 years or less. I also found an article which provides a more comprehensive answer to your question. You can go to the following web address: www.inchem.org/documents/ia...s/iarc/vol65/printing.html. Go to section 5.2 of the article.
B. Paper Dust and Chemicals used in paper production: If you work in a paper mill, your chances of developing lung diseases including cancer are increased significantly.
C: Laser Printing Inks: “Certain laser printers used in offices and homes release tiny particles of toner-like material into the air that people can inhale deep into lungs where they may pose a health hazard, scientists are reporting. Their study appeared in the online issue of the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T), a semi-monthly journal. Read the whole article here
D: Chemicals used to clean equipment and offices.
E: Mold, mildew, bacteria in air conditioner units and dirty air vents.
F: Chemicals used in professions: pesticide companies, landscape and garden professionals, hair dressers, nail salon workers, house cleaners, construction workers, and police (lead from target practice) just to name a few professions whose work puts them at great risk.
#3: Air Pollution: Smog from traffic, diesel trucks, and fumes from various manufacturing companies all contribute to lung illnesses. Places like Imperial Valley, CA where they burn the fields after planting is finished and perform aerial pesticide spraying rank high for lung illnesses and disease. Asthma and allergies are also increased. Birth defects are more common as well. 2000 deaths per year are caused from pollution. That number could be much higher because of the problems diagnosing the true cause of each non-smoking case of cancer.
#4: Asbestos: A toxic compound used in thermal and acoustic insulation. Even though it is banned in the US now there are older people who worked in jobs that exposed them to this product. The asbestos fibers released into the air and inhaled into the lungs, can last for a life time in the lung tissue. This later can cause the cancer known as mesothelioma.
#5: Heredity: Increases chances but individual genetic susceptibility is the real issue whether you smoked or did not smoke but had relatives who died from it. Not all smokers develop lung cancer. I have a friend who is 96 and has smoked for years without lung compromise. Strong health genetics play a huge part in your health. You can take two people, one with healthy long lived family members and the other one with poor family health genetics, give them the same smoking factors, and generally the one with the great health genetics will survive longer even though they smoked. This applies to drinkers as well. Inherited healthy �"long lived family genes are of great benefit to your own life. If you have one parent with poor genetics, the other with great family health genetics, it is a roll of the genes plus lifestyle factors that influence your health.
Heredity, since all smokers do not eventually develop lung cancer, it is likely that other factors, such as individual genetic susceptibility, may play a role in the causation of lung cancer. Numerous studies have shown that lung cancer is more likely to occur in both smoking and non-smoking relatives of those who have had lung cancer than in the general population.
Be Proactive in Your Health Care Management
I sit here right now with a printer next to my chair. Until writing this article, I never thought about it much. When I was young, I cleaned houses and burned my lungs with chemicals by accident on a job. My mother did smoke and I lived with her smoke until I was 18. I was married to a smoker for 8 years. So even though I lived a healthy life style for the past 25 years, there are factors in my life that could contribute to lung cancer. I had a lung x-ray for the first time in years, a month ago. I realize now how important that x-ray was. I was having some discomfort in an area that was suspicious. It was clear but my doctor did his job. Make sure if you are having symptoms such as a persistent couch, fatigue, weight loss, or other unusual symptoms, that you clearly tell your doctor, you want an x-ray and lab tests. If he will not listen, see another doctor. Make sure you don’t downplay your symptoms or neglect to tell him about your symptoms. Get a referral to a specialist if you don’t get the proper care. Stand up for your rights as a patient. Do not allow a doctor to ignore you or your symptoms….press him to do his job. Protect yourself with protective masks, gloves, eye protection. I f safety regulations in your workplace are being ignored, let someone know. Go over their head if needed. In the long run, it is you who must protect your health and life. Do not ignore serous symptoms even though you live a healthy lifestyle. We all are at risk.
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Kate Freer, Master Herbalist, medical researcher, and freelance writer
Information and products including organic certified Moringa bulk powder, powder in caps, Moringa tea, Moringa Extract, and Moringa oil.