Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Screening, Treating, & Surviving Lung Cancer

Who Gets Lung Cancer, and How to Handle It: Q&A
WebMD Health News

Aug. 9, 2005 -- Lung cancer has entered the headlines with the recent death of news anchor Peter Jennings and an announcement by Christopher Reeve's widow, Dana.

Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths for U.S. men and women. Health professionals agree that smoking greatly raises the risk of lung cancer and that quitting smoking can have major health benefits. But all smokers don't get lung cancer, and all lung cancer patients aren't smokers.

WebMD spoke about lung cancer and lung cancer survival with Jay Brooks, MD, chief of hematology and oncology at the Ochsner Clinic in Baton Rouge, La.

Q. Dana Reeve, widow of actor Christopher Reeve, has announced that she has lung cancer. A spokeswoman for the Christopher Reeve Foundation reportedly said that Dana Reeve didn't smoke but didn't elaborate on that. How many people get lung cancer who do not smoke?

A. Less than 5% of people who get lung cancer have a history that [doesn't include] tobacco. That is either directly smoking cigarettes or cigars, or they do not work in a smoking-related environment. What that means is either in a home with a smoking spouse or having tobacco exposure in a workplace.

Q. So you're talking about heavy tobacco exposure?

A. Well, there is no safe level of tobacco exposure. No one has ever calculated a dose that is a safe level.

Q. What do we know about the people who are in that less-than-5% group?

A. They're a group of patients that we don't completely understand why they develop lung cancer. There are some unusual types of lung cancer that they could [have].

(WebMD received a news release on that topic from the American Cancer Society. The news release states, "A spokesperson is quoted as saying Ms. Reeve is not a smoker. Lung cancer does occur in people who have never smoked, even though cigarette smoking is by far the biggest risk factor for lung cancer in the U.S., causing an estimated 80% of lung cancers in women and 90% in men. Known risk factors that may affect never-smokers include exposure to secondhand smoke and radon, as well as occupational exposure to asbestos and certain chemicals and metals. Genetic susceptibility is thought to play a greater role in people who develop lung cancer at an early age. Fewer than 3% of lung cancers occur in people under the age of 45.")

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Broken cigarette
Do you know the myths from the facts?
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
cancer fighting foods
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
Pets Improve Your Health
Vitamin D
Lung Cancer Surgery Options