Srinagar: A new study has revealed that contrary to popular perception, the incidence of lung cancer is prevalent among non-smokers especially females in Kashmir.
Entitled, “Prevalence of lung cancer in non-smokers in Kashmir,” the study was conducted at SKIMS, Soura.
The 2021 study published in the Journal of Medical Sciences was aimed to elucidate the etiological/ risk factor profile of non-smokers female lung cancer patients presenting to a tertiary care hospital.
Most cases were in the age group of 60 to 70 years. Among them, 37.6% had exposure to secondhand smoke. 20.8% of cases had biomass smoke exposure and 10.9% of cases had exposure to cooking fumes.
“Adenocarcinoma was the most common type with 65.3 per cent. The second most common histopathological type was squamous cell carcinoma,” the study said.
The study emphasized this type of cancer is a “major health issue in females. “With exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, biomass and cooking fumes act as main risk factors for the development of this disease,” it said.
Among the most common malignancies present in the valley, right now is lung cancer. Most importantly, non-smokers are equally at risk of developing lung cancer.
“The most common risk factor for lung cancer in non-smokers is environmental tobacco smoke followed by biomass smoke. The presence of previous lung disease also confers risk for the development of lung cancer in non-smokers. However, occupational exposure is less obvious in our region (Occupational exposure is when people are exposed to some kinds of chemicals and toxic gases, like paint/chemical factories, metallurgies, glass factories, printing, and more), HOD Internal and Pulmonary Medicine SKIMS, Prof Rafi Jan and co-author of the study said.
He noted they need strong efforts to curb smoking at home as well as in public places. “A concerted effort is needed to identify the factors responsible for lung cancers arising in non-smoker women so that we can understand its biology, learn how to diagnose the disease earlier, and treat it in a rational manner,” Jan said.
What can be done?
Community Medicine Specialist Dr. Sheikh Mohammad Saleem said lung cancer screening programmes can widely help at many levels to deal with the situation, especially in the wake of the smoking issue.
“Lung cancers are majorly reported in stage 3 or 4 in the region. Hence, regular lung cancer screening will be making one aware of the alarming stage of tobacco users. As far as the cancer is concerned, early detection is the only way which ensures the best recovery,” Dr. Saleem said.
Besides this, the doctor explained at a community level, measures to improve air quality can be undertaken by improving surface transport measures, creating smoking-free, clean air zones, green spaces, and green infrastructure.
“At an individual level, a personal effort to curtail tobacco smoking, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and maintain a clean personal environment is a good start. Promoting the switch to cleaner cooking methods among the people we interact with will have a long-term impact on the community,” he said.
The health expert also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has made people well versed and habitual with the use of face masks.
“Apart from preventing COVID, N95 masks can reduce the PM2.5 inhalation by 95-99%. This is a blessing in disguise. A good masking habit with an appropriate fitting N95 mask may be the most cost-effective way of preventing air pollution-related diseases,” he said.