Rising cases of women getting lung cancer, say doctors, but smoking isn't the only reason

The ratio of smokers and non-smokers getting lung cancer is 20:1. However, there are additional factors affecting women.

Published: 29th July 2021 08:31 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th July 2021 08:31 PM   |  A+A-

Lung disease research centre

For representational purposes

Express News Service

BENGALURU: An increasing number of women are reporting cases of lung cancer, said doctors speaking at a panel discussion on 'Lung Cancer Detection – How Late is Late?'. Although it is the most prominent type of cancer seen in men, the primary cause being smoking, the number of female patients reporting to hospitals has not gone unnoticed.

The ratio of smokers and non-smokers getting lung cancer is 20:1. However, there are additional factors affecting women.

"Household pollutants are also carcinogenic (have the potential to cause cancer). These include firewood and the Indian 'chulha' used for cooking. This has an impact on women where cancer shows up post the age of 60 years. Traffic pollutants are another factor," said Dr S Viswanath, Medical Oncologist, Kumaran Hospital.

Another interesting cause he mentioned is that women labourers, especially from North Karnataka, are diagnosed with lung cancer, with the common cause being reverse smoking. Here, they have a hobby of holding the burnt end of the beedi inside their mouth, in order to avoid inviting judgement from others about women smoking.

Adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that starts in mucus-producing glandular cells of your body, is seen in women and this may have a genetic component, said Dr Jagannath Dixit, Consultant Surgical Oncology, HCG Cancer Hospital.

"Men smoke cigarettes in larger numbers and also the quantity is higher. However, we have observed that women smoking even 1-2 cigarettes a day, far less than men, are ending up with cancer. This has to be studied further to find out why it happens. The fatality rates with lung cancer are no different among men and women," Dr Dixit added.

The panelists said that 80-85 percent of patients arrive in the advanced stages of lung cancer. Cough, losing weight, coughing blood, sputum production are the symptoms. However, once cancer spreads from the lungs, it can go to the liver causing jaundice, spread to the adrenal glands causing them to fail, resulting in a low-BP emergency, pain, and fracture in bones and stroke or seizures when cancer reaches the brain.

Consuming cigarettes, hookah, betel leaf, paan are the main causes of lung cancer, apart from occupational factors such as working in industries, mining sector, etc. The disease burden of tobacco-related malignancies is expected to rise to 12 percent in India, the panelists stated.

A concerning factor is that at the early stages it is hard to detect cancer and it is often misdiagnosed as tuberculosis, especially in periphery health centres.


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