In Issue 48 of the Midwest Toxic Release (June 2012), we encouraged more investigation into the causes of non-smoking lung cancer cases as the number of lung cancer filings was rising. Over a year later, the number of lung cancer cases filed in 2013 in Madison County and the City of St. Louis has exceeded the number of lung cancer cases filed in both jurisdictions in all of 2012. As of December 16, 2013, in Madison County, 581 lung cancer cases had been filed. In 2012, in Madison County, 488 lung cancer cases were filed and 153 lung cancer cases were filed in 2011. Lung cancer cases in the City of St. Louis are also rising, with 12 cases filed in 2011, 53 cases filed in 2012 and 109 cases filed as of December 16, 2013.
There also seems to be a media blitz pointing away from smoking as the main cause of lung cancer. While most experts have indicated that 90% of lung cancers historically were attributable to smoking, recent reports show that 60% of new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or those who have quit smoking. Dr. Lecia V. Sequist, medical oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and member of the LUNGevity Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board gave this information in an article on CNN.com, when noting that lung cancer patients face a stigma that they must be smokers. http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/30/health/sequist-lung-cancer-stigma/index.html. The Lung Cancer Foundation of America indicates that this 60% is made up of a combination of 45-50% former smokers (many who indicate they quit 10-30 years prior to the onset of lung cancer) and 15% of those who have never smoked. http://www.lcfamerica.org/facts.html. The American Cancer Society and the Lung Cancer Foundation go even further, indicating that nearly 80% of new lung cancer cases are former and never smokers – 20.9% current smokers, 60% former smokers, and 17.9% never smokers. Dr. Sequist cites the World Health Organization in stating that pollution is the leading cause of lung cancer. The LUNGevity Foundation indicates that other causes of lung cancer include smoking, radon, asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, soot, tar, air pollution, family and personal history of lung cancer, and being over the age of 65. This is just the initial list, as there are many more potential causes of lung cancer that will be explored.