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Changing the Stigma of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is often known as the “smoker’s disease” even though one in five victims of lung cancer have never smoked a cigarette. The annual death toll among this group now approaches that of breast cancer, about 40,000 a year.

Non-smoking women are twice as likely to get lung cancer as non-smoking men, and non-smoking women are more than twice as likely to die from lung cancer than ovarian cancer.

Even with these high numbers, spending on research for lung cancer is far below that of breast cancer. As a result, experts are calling for a shift in public thinking on lung cancer.

Many experts believe that the stigma around smoking that accompanies lung cancer — that its victims somehow “brought it on themselves” — has dampened public sympathy for patients and hindered funding for research.

Still, even with limited funding, scientists are slowly uncovering clues to the origins of lung cancer in non-smokers. Early research seems to indicate that lung cancer tumors could be somehow related to estrogen levels in women.

Learn more about the research scientists are doing around lung cancer.