Ask the Doctor
August 13, 2013

Can you get lung cancer if you don’t smoke?

Dear Doc,

Life is strange. My mother just died of lung cancer, but my father, who smoked all his life, seems strong like a lion. Is this for real?{{more}}


Dear Nicole,


This is classic passive or second-hand smoke effect. If we conclude that you mother’s lung cancer is not from another source and most definitely from exposure to cigarette smoking, it re-enforces the notion that it is not who is smoking, but rather who inhales who really matters.

We know that not everyone who smokes or has smoked develops lung cancer. It is not just one factor that must be considered. Our own physical structure must be taken into consideration. This can be compared to two buildings adjacent to each other when a hurricane passes. They are both exposed to the same forces, but the structural integrity and susceptibility can be different, resulting in different outcomes. This is possibly the reason why some people smoke from their teens to the nineties without getting in lung cancer.

It is very important to remind people who smoke to think of the effect of their smoke on others. You might decide to take the risk involved with smoking, but other persons in your surroundings who are inhaling the smoke can suffer the consequence.

Exposure of children to cigarette smoke is a situation that we must pay close attention to, because their lungs are still in the process of developing and are at their most vulnerable stage.


SVG Cancer Society,

P.O. Box 709, Kingstown.