An American star got lung cancer despite being a non-smoker… How did this happen?

Kate Micucci, the renowned American star known for her role in “The Big Bang Theory,” recently revealed on her TikTok account that she has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite never having smoked in her life, she bravely shared this news with her followers.

Micucci, a 43-year-old, shared that her malignant disease is in its early stages. She expressed, “It’s quite unusual considering I have never smoked a single cigarette in my life. The diagnosis came as a surprise.”

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While approximately 80 percent of lung cancer cases stem from smoking, there is a growing incidence of diagnoses among non-smokers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States reports that around 20 percent of lung cancer cases diagnosed annually in the country. Occur in individuals who have either never smoked or have smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.

According to Larry Robinson, a pulmonologist and thoracic surgeon at Moffitt Cancer Center. The significant figures represent a deeply concerning issue that demands attention and action.

He further remarked, “Two decades ago, it was extremely uncommon to encounter a situation where a non-smoker was diagnosed with lung cancer. However, nowadays, I come across such cases at least once every week.”

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Recent research published this year has revealed a puzzling trend: lung cancer rates among younger and middle-aged women surpass those among men in the same age group. Bafflingly, the underlying reasons for this disparity remain unknown to the experts.

Why do non-smokers get lung cancer?

Smoking, in all its forms, stands as a primary risk factor for lung cancer, but it is not alone in this regard. Other factors, including passive smoking, air pollution, exposure to asbestos, and a family history of lung cancer, also contribute to the risk. By acknowledging these additional risk factors, we gain a more comprehensive understanding of the complexities surrounding lung cancer.

Among these additional risk factors. It is estimated that passive smoking is responsible for approximately 7,300 lung cancer diagnoses each year. While radon is associated with around 2,900 cases.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas with no discernible odor, color, or taste. It is produced by the natural radioactive decay of uranium present in rocks, soil, and water.

The exact causes for the rise in lung cancer cases among non-smokers remain uncertain. While radon has long recognized as a risk factor, the exposure levels to this gas have not significantly changed in the past 50 years. Therefore, other environmental factors may be contributing to this phenomenon, as suggested by Robinson.

Experts suggest that there is still a substantial amount of research to be conducted, particularly concerning the incidence of lung cancer in women who have never smoked.

In this particular context. American oncologist Jack Jacob has expressed interest in investigating the potential causes stemming from estrogen metabolites, chronic inflammation, processed foods, and chemicals.

The medical director of the MemorialCare Cancer Institute in California. Who also serves as a doctor, expressed uncertainty regarding the collective impact of these factors on the increased risk of lung cancer.

Differences between smokers and others

Lung cancer in non-smokers typically exhibits distinct characteristics compared to lung cancer in smokers. Non-smokers tend to develop lung cancer at a younger age. And the tumors themselves may possess specific genetic alterations that distinguish them from those found in smokers.

Non-smokers commonly diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, specifically adenocarcinoma. Which accounts for 50 to 60 percent of all lung cancers.

Adenocarcinoma, a form of cancer, originates in the mucus-producing cells of the lungs. This particular type of cancer is commonly detected in the outer regions of the lungs, facilitating early diagnosis prior to metastasis.

Squamous cell carcinomas, a type of lung cancer that develops in the cells lining the airways, account for 10 to 20 percent of cases, even among non-smokers. It’s important to note that these cancers can occur in individuals who have never smoked.

What are the symptoms?

While the specific types of cancer that smokers and non-smokers develop may vary, the symptoms are typically similar. These symptoms are crucial to recognize and include:
•    Feeling generally tired
•    Signs of fatigue despite no apparent muscle effort 
•    Unexplained weight loss
•    Frequent cough
•    Hoarseness
•    Coughing up blood
•    Chest pain
•    Shortness of breath

The treatment for lung cancer in a non-smoker, similar to most types of cancer, relies on early detection or identification in the later stages.

According to Dr. Jacob, early detection of lung cancer in non-smokers significantly improves their chances of survival. He explains that this type of malignant disease tends to occur in younger and healthier individuals without many associated chronic diseases. Such as heart disease and lung disease, who do not smoke.

Even individuals who have never smoked can develop lung cancer due to underlying mutations that play a role in the disease. It is important to note that there may a silver lining for many non-smoking lung cancer patients. They could possess specific mutations that can effectively targeted with specialized drugs. As Dr. Robinson explains, this provides hope and potential treatment options for those affected by this devastating condition.

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