20 per cent of Australians with lung cancer have never smoked - Institute for Respiratory Health

20 per cent of Australians with lung cancer have never smoked

Tuesday, August 01, 2023 | News

Startling statistics reveal that 20 per cent of Australians diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. On World Lung Cancer Day, Tuesday 1 August 2023, the Institute for Respiratory Health seeks to raise awareness that lung cancer can strike anyone, irrespective of their smoking history.

Lung cancer is Australia’s biggest cancer killer, killing more Australians than breast and bowel cancers combined.

“While smoking is undoubtedly the largest independent risk factor for lung cancer, the causes of lung cancer in people who have never smoked, are not yet well understood,” Professor Brims from the Institute for Respiratory Health said.

“While there have been big strides in understanding lung cancer in smokers, we still don’t know the complexities of the disease in non-smokers.

Professor Brims is working with local researchers to establish personalised risk profiles for people at risk of lung cancer.

“If we can highlight a risk profile for someone who might develop lung cancer, like exposure to asbestos and silica dust, when they’re a non-smoker then we are going to save lives in the future,” Professor Brims added.

Early detection is also critical. The recent $264 million government investment in lung cancer screening is a positive step, but it falls short for those exposed to asbestos or silica dust in certain trades who are not included in the screening program.

“Sadly, lung cancer also carries a stigma that leads to delays in diagnosis and inadequate referrals,” Professor Brims added.

“To address this issue, the LUCAP project in Western Australia, supported by Cancer Australia and the Institute of Respiratory Health, is striving to eliminate unfair disparities in the quality of care for lung cancer patients and their families.

“We need to break down the stigma surrounding lung cancer and stop thinking it’s only a disease for smokers,” Professor Brims said.  

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