“Lung cancer can in fact develop even if you have never been a smoker”, confirms Dr. Giacomo Mangiaracina, a specialist in public health and president of the National Agency for Prevention

Natasha is 49 years old and has never smoked in her life. Yet, not long ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Imagine her bewilderment when she was told that she was in danger of dying. It all started – as she says – when last June he started breathing “like I swallowed a dog toy and my voice suddenly became hoarse”. Then the illusion that everything was back to normal. Symptoms fade after a few weeks. But it’s only a very brief respite. Right in the middle of summer, a strange cough appears. Too strange to consider it a passing symptom. This is how the 49-year-old decided to be checked by the doctors, who gave her the terrible news: “They told me they had discovered a mass of tissue on the lung. Initially it was a shockI told myself it was impossible because i have never smoked”, he said. A discovery that radically changed her perspective of life. A life that has suddenly been shortened, even if the doctors have not told her how long she has left to live.

People can live with lung cancer for years and a recent checkup showed it 25% reduction in your tumor mass. Certainly, Natasha does not lack tenacity and determination: “As far as I’m concerned, I’ll still be here in 10 years”, she said, “I want to live to the fullest without thinking about how much I have left”. A desire that has also turned into an awareness activity for this pathology. Her recurring phrase of hers? “You only need lungs to get cancer, it doesn’t just happen if you’re a smoker!”. A statement that science knows well: “In fact, lung cancer can develop even if you have never been a smoker”, confirms Dr. Giacomo Mangiaracina, specialist in public health and president of the National Prevention Agency. “From 80 to 90% of lung cancers affect smokers, but the remaining percentage concerns a significant portion of the population, especially women, whose lungs are smaller than men’s”, continues the expert. “It’s one of the reasons women smokers are more vulnerable.” But the phenomenon cannot be explained only by a question of gender. “It should be added that in the last two decades we have witnessed a progressive increase in this pathology which can presumably be attributed to genetic but also environmental factors”, underlines Mangiaracina. “However, in the specific case of this lady, if he had smoked, the tumor would have developed at least ten years early”.

How much one can risk getting ill with lung cancer is a matter which, depending on the case, “is discussed in the specialist consultation (oncogenetic counselling)”, explains Mangiaracina, “and foresees the clinical evaluation integrated with a specific molecular investigation (genetic test) if it is indicated. In situations of this kind, the possible environmental risk is also assessed”, concludes the expert, “by relating the number of similar cases in a given geographical area”.

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