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Video | Air Pollution Is Raising The Risk of Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers: Expert

'Most of the young patients coming in with lung cancer now are non-smokers', says Dr Arvind Kumar

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If things continue like this, "there may be almost an epidemic of lung cancer," says Dr Arvind Kumar Chairman, Institute of Chest Onco-Surgery and Lung Transplantation, Medanta Robotic Institute Medanta Hospital, Gurugram.

When the winter months roll in, like clockwork, pollution season descends upon the country, particularly in and around Delhi.

We often hear talks of AQI, PM2.5, smog and how air pollution is bad for our health. But do we have any real-world data to show just how it impacts our body?

Speaking to FIT, Dr Arvind Kumar breaks down a recent study conducted by his team analysing the data of 300 of his patients with lung cancer.

"We thought, let's take out the charts of the patients we have operated in the last 10 years, look at some of their parameters. What we found was astonishing."
Dr Arvind Kumar

This is what they found.

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"When I was a student, I was told that it (lung cancer) is a disease of elderly, smokers, and men. That was the description of lung cancer," says Dr Arvind Kumar.

"In men, today it is the number one cancer in terms of incidents, and in women it had galloped from seventh and fifth position to third position in the last decade or so, and is increasing."
Dr Arvind Kumar

'Non-Smokers At Risk Too'

We were astonished to find the data from various cities is clearly shows that,

  • Lung cancer is increasing rapidly in incidents

  • There are now as many non-smokers getting lung cancer as smokers

"We were also astonished to find that nearly 10 percent of our patients were in the under 40 age group, and most of these younger patients were non-smokers."
Dr Arvind Kumar

'Lung Cancer is Preventable'

To summarise, Dr Kumar says, the scenario that is likely to emerge in the future is that,

  • More younger patients will be diagnosed with lung cancer

  • More cases will emerge in women

  • It will be equally in smokers and non-smokers

"Unless we can bring about a radical change, the majority of the patients will be diagnosed in the late stage where cure will not be possible," he adds.

"The good news is that lung cancer is a completely preventable cancer. We know the causes well, smoking and exposure to air pollution. And both can be controlled by efficient, adequate, timely measures."
Dr Arvind Kumar

(This was first published on 6 December 2022. It has been published from The Quint's archives over rising pollution levels in Delhi-NCR.)

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