Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can you get lung cancer even if you don't smoke?"
Do people that don't smoke still have a chance of getting lung cancer? I don't smoke but I am around it a lot at work and I'm curious if my health is at risk.
There is definitely an association between smoking and increased risk of several cancers, including lung cancer. However, the risks of smoking are a result of exposure to toxins and carcinogens in the cigarette smoke which means that if you breathe cigarette smoke second-hand, you are still at risk for the negative health effects of being a smoker yourself. You will certainly be exposed to less smoke as a non-smoker spending time in a smoky environment than if you were actively smoking cigarettes. However, there is well-established evidence that shows that second-hand smoke is a significant health risk--this is why many states have banned cigarette smoking in public places. The best thing to do for your health is to minimize the time you spend around smoke of any kind. If this is a problem with your job, you may want to consider talking to your supervisor or manager. Depending upon the circumstances, there may be state or federal laws that protect your right to a smoke-free work environment. In addition, it is also important to know that even people who have never smoked and do not have a second hand smoke exposure history can get lung cancer. For this reason, it is important to maintain regular follow-up appointments with your primary care physician so that any new changes in your health can be promptly evaluated.
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