Alarming Trend: Non-smokers too falling prey to lung cancer

New Delhi: Lung cancer is no more restricted to smokers as many non-smokers, including young men and women, are also falling prey to it, perhaps due to increase in air pollution, a new study conducted over the last six years has claimed.

Doctors from a private hospital, who did the study from March 2012 to June 2018 by analysing 150 in-house patients, dubbed the findings as "disturbing".

"Nearly 50 per cent of these patients were non-smokers. In fact, the figure rose to 70 per cent in the younger age group (less than 50 years). Five patients, all men were in the age group of 20-30 and none of them were smokers," lung surgeon at a private hospital, Arvind Kumar said.

He was speaking at an event held at a private hospital premises on the eve of World Lung Cancer Day, during which a campaign '#BeatLungCancer' was also launched.

"Lung cancer is a dreaded disease with one of the lowest five-year survival rates. We are shocked by the alarming rise in cases among younger individuals, non-smokers and women. While conventional claims that smoking is the main cause but there are strong evidences now that points to the increasing role of air pollution," Kumar said.

Out of the 150 patients, 119 were men and 31 women, with nearly half of the female patients from Delhi-NCR. The study was done in various age brackets ranging from 20 to 80 years, and above.

"The mean age of these patients was 58. Out of 150, 74 were non-smokers and 76 smokers. Most patients had stage-I or stage-II lung cancer and a few were at stage-III," he added. The male to female ratio was 3.8:1 indicating a "significant rise" in the proportion of female patients compared to past studies, which had reported a much lower incidence in females, the study claimed.

The study also found that majority of these patients were suffering from adenocarcinoma, which happens more from non-smoking reasons(e.g presence of toxic substances such as Lead in air) compared to squamous carcinoma which is caused by smoking cigarettes.

Md Nadeem, a 25-year-old resident of Delhi, was among the attendees who survived the cancer though they were non-smokers.

"In June 2015, Nadeem had undergone the surgery and his tumor were taken out, thereafter, he responded to the treatment," his father said.

The study, which the doctors are contemplating, sending for publication, also claimed that nearly 30 per cent of the patients studied had been "initially misdiagnosed" as tuberculosis cases and were treated for TB for many months, leading to delay in definitive diagnosis and treatment.

"Our study emphasise on the need of more robust data collection system for lung cancer in our country and the need for action to prevent deaths by early detection, smoking cessation and strong and immediate measures to control both outdoor as well as indoor air pollution," Kumar said.

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