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80% of Lung Cancer Patients Are Non-Smoking Women

Out of all the women suffering from lung cancer, 80% of them are non-smokers. The major reason attributed to the cause is the poorly ventilated kitchen and indoor air pollution. Surge in the incidences are profound in tier 2 and 3 cities in and around Ghaziabad. 

“In western countries, where rise in lung cancer among women is solely attributed to more number of women taking up smoking, Indian women are affected by environmental pollution. Due to the proximity, air pollution generated within the homes is more dangerous and harmful in comparison to outdoor air pollution. Use of inefficient cooking fuels like wood and kerosene produces large amounts of small soot particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and gradually deteriorates the alveoli, leading to lung cancer.” said, Dr. Meenu Walia, Director- Medical Oncology, Max Super Speciality Hospitals, Vaishali.

In a recent study conducted at Max Institute of Cancer Care, Max Super Speciality Hospital, non-smoker women were affected more than smoking males and females together. With more than 250 lung cancer patients studied for a period of two years, it was viewed that smoking is not the sole reason for causing lung cancer.

The rate of the disease was substantially high among non-smoking women. The study concluded that 75% of the total patients studied were male and the remaining one-fourth were females. Among men, 70% of them were regular smokers and 30% of them were non-smokers. But the statistics among women were quite shocking and contrasting with 82% of women who didn’t smoke were affected with lung cancer.

The demographic study also revealed that the suffering women were mainly from Delhi- NCR, and the adjoining tier 2 &3 cities like Moradabad, Saharanpur, Hathras, Agra, Mathura, Varanasi, Muzzafar Nagar etc.

“Lung cancer, one of the deadliest types of cancer in the world, is known to claim the highest number of lives every year. As it is mostly diagnosed in the advanced stages, according to World Health Organization (WHO), lung cancer has been the leading cause of cancer-related mortality with 2.09 million deaths in 2018. Primarily, the symptoms are usually not distinguishable in the early stages and people often self-diagnose them as seasonal problems.” further added Dr.Walia.

According to WHO, 4.3 million people a year in India, die from the exposure to household air pollution, which is among the highest in the world.In India, over 30 crore people use the traditional stoves or open fires to cook or heat their homes with solid fuels.

“There is an abrupt rise in the number of female lung cancer patients in the last decade. Creating awareness among the Indian women in the tier 2 &3 cities about the hazards of household pollution and poor ventilation becomes a prime importance. We need to raise awareness for both indoor pollution and outdoor pollution. Clearly, a greater awareness is needed on the hazards of poorly ventilated homes and kitchens along with replacement of chulha cooking with LPG gas to tackle indoor pollution, especially in Tier II and III regions. In highly polluted cities like Delhi – NCR, outdoor and indoor pollution both seem to be contributory factors for spike in lung cancer among women. “says Dr.Walia.

While both men and women can be affected by these factors, what makes it more dangerous for women is mainly the lack of awareness, due to which they may be diagnosed late, or show reluctance to visit a doctor. Therefore, it becomes imperative for women to be aware of how they get exposed to such diseases.

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