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

Nonsmokers Can Inherit Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer in a Close Relative Doubles Your Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 9, 2006 -- Having a close family member who's had lung cancer doubles your own risk for the disease -- even if you don't smoke.

The finding comes from a 13-year study of more than 102,000 Japanese men and women. Study participants were aged 40 to 69 at the start of the study. Over the study period, nearly 800 participants developed lungcancercancer.

Jun-Ichi Nitadori, MD, and colleagues report in the October issue of the journal Chest that:

  • Having a parent or sibling with lung cancer doubles a person's risk of lung cancer.
  • The risk of inherited lung cancer is greater for women (2.65-fold risk) than for men (1.69-fold risk).
  • The risk of inherited lung cancer is greater for people who never smoked (2.48-fold risk) than for current smokers (1.73-fold risk).
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the type of lung cancer most strongly linked to family history.
  • Only a family history of lung cancer -- not other kinds of cancer -- is linked to inherited lung-cancer risk.

The increased risk of lung cancer among families cannot be explained simply by shared smoking habits, Nitadori and colleagues find.

The Japanese findings support more than 40 years of previous studies suggesting that lung cancer risk can be inherited. These studies have been criticized for failing to completely control for smoking behaviors. And nobody has yet discovered a "lung cancer gene."

But the consistency of the findings suggest that the time has come to add family history to the known risk factors, argues Wayne State University researcher Ann G. Schwartz, PhD, MPH, in an editorial accompanying the Nitadori study.

"Family history should be tested as another marker of 'high risk' for lung cancer in [screening and prevention] trials," Schwartz suggests.

Moreover, Schwartz suggests, current smokers might be more motivated to quit if they knew they had inherited higher lung cancer risk from their parents.

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