Experts say not all lung cancers are caused by smoking

Lungs cancerContrary to the aged–long belief that only smokers are at risk of lung cancer, physicians at the Grand Round of the Respiratory Unit of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, have  explained that not all lung cancers are caused by smoking.

The physicians who alerted on increasing incidence of lung cancer in young people in the country say lung cancer has become a major public health concern in Nigeria.

The Ground Round tagged: “A Pulmonary Mass” saw the presentation of a  20 – year old- lung cancer patient successfully operated at LUTH.

Addressing the class attended by consultant physicians and medical students, Head of the Unit, a Consultant Chest Physician, Dr. Cyril Chukwu, said smoking does not answer all questions about lung cancer.

The type of cigarette you smoke matters. The quality varies from cigarette to cigarette.  The cheaper cigarettes are more carcinogenic than the more expensive ones because of the quality of cigarette filter.

“How much of a cigarette you smoke comes in. If for example you smoke a little from the cigarette and throw it away like the Americans do, that means the remaining carcinogens in the other half you will not get it. You only get a little bit.”

Further he said: “How well you smoke and how often you smoke also count.  How you inhale also matters.  There is also the re-lightening issue which is very dangerous. There is a genetic aspect, the kind of enzymes you have that will be able to metabolise the carcinogens into active or more active metabolite also play a very big protective role. These are enzymes that act on the cancer causing chemicals that we call carcinogens to make them more active and also your body’s ability to repair damage to cells which lead to cells and all these vary from person to person.”

Chukwu said some components of insecticides are carcinogens, fumes from vehicles, diesel generator, and inhaling these components is dangerous.

“A lot of people who never smoked have got cancer that is why we are talking about other things in the environment like these cancer causing chemicals in the atmosphere, even when you cook with kerosene or fire woods. Also radiation from rock and soil known as Radom can also cause lung cancer.

The Head of the Unit, who stated that a lot of young people are coming down with lung cancer advised smokers to quit and those who do not smoke to always go for regular cancer screening as they may contract lung cancer from chemicals in the atmosphere.

“If you are ill and have been coughing for weeks see you doctor to know what it is causing it.  If it is cancer it can be attended to early enough,” he counseled.

While stressing the need for people to eat more of vegetables and fruits, he stated that studies have shown that intake of adequate vegetables and fruits can protect against lung cancer.

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