Most lung cancers occur in smokers, but nonsmoker Dana Reeve’s situation isn’t as unusual as the appears.

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Dana Reeve, 44, announced top top Aug. 9 that she had been diagnosed through lung cancer. Reeve said in a short statement that she to be undergoing therapy for the an illness and was optimistic around the prognosis. Brian Snyder / Reuters file
Most lung cancers occur in smokers, but nonsmoker Dana Reeve’s case isn’t as uncommon as that appears.

Like Reeve, widow the “Superman” star Christopher Reeve, 1 in 5 women diagnosed v the an illness never lit a cigarette, medical professionals say. However they re-publishing an regrettably stigma with cancer patients that smoked.


“The underlying assumption is, you to be a smoker and also you led to this, therefore you’re not going to get my sympathy,” stated Tom Labrecque Jr., who began a structure to advanced awareness after ~ his nonsmoker father passed away several years back of the disease.

No one “deserves” lung cancer, physicians say. But nonsmokers do have actually one silver lining: lock respond better to the newest targeted cancer drugs like Iressa and also Tarceva.

That’s because people who obtain lung cancer at an early stage in life, prefer the 44-year-old Reeve, are more likely to have genetic factors fueling their disease, physicians say. Just 3 percent the lung cancers take place in civilization under 45, nevertheless of smoking cigarettes status.

Reeve, one actress that leads a paralysis research foundation named for she husband who died last year, disclosed Tuesday the she to be being treated for lung cancer however gave no details on how or where.


Her notice came two days after abc News anchor Peter Jennings, a smoker, passed away of lung cancer at age 67.

No one "deserves" cancerDespite their various smoking histories, they share the most typical cancer in the world, and also the deadliest. This year in the joined States, an approximated 93,010 men and 79,560 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer and nearly an equal number — 90,490 men and 73,020 females — will die the it.


About 10 percent that men and 20 percent of women through lung cancer never ever smoked, and also the variety of nonsmokers through the an illness doesn’t seem to be rising significantly, said Dr. Michael Thun, chief epidemiologist for the American Cancer Society.

But awareness may be ~ above the rise since of the aggressive anti-smoking campaigns in recent years. And stigma may be rising, too.


“When civilization get breast cancer, people say, "What can I carry out to aid you?" When people get lung cancer, civilization say, "Did girlfriend smoke?”’ said Susan Mantel, executive director of Joan’s Legacy, a fund-raising group named for Joan Scarangello, a nonsmoker and former head writer for newsman Tom Brokaw. Scarangello passed away in 2001 that lung cancer, together did she nonsmoking mother before her.

“There is a identify stigma,” said Labrecque, recalling comment after the funeral for his father, a former chairman of chase Manhattan Corp.

“People would certainly say, "I didn’t understand he smoked,”’ the said.

His foundation’s net site even acknowledges this trend, by stating that an ext than half of human being newly diagnosed v lung cancer yearly have either never ever smoked or quit smoking.


Doctors who treat the disease, prefer Dr. Bruce Johnson that Dana-Farber Cancer facility in Boston, bristle at the id of “innocent” and also “not so innocent” victims.


“People that smoke don’t deserve to gain lung cancer, and people have worked an extremely hard to quit,” the said.

Nonsmokers who have surgery for their cancer have a reduced risk of arising a second tumor 보다 smokers. Also, smokers who quit after ~ cancer surgery have better survival odds, the noted.

Turning the corner?Nonsmokers also respond better to Iressa and Tarceva, said Dr. Alan Sandler, director of thoracic oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer center in Nashville, who has actually been associated in experimentation these new-generation drugs that much more precisely assault the molecular factors making this cancers grow.


“The malignant cabinet in a smoker is much more complex” and also has more mutations than nonsmokers often tend to have, Sandler said.

Researchers now are examining whether nonsmokers do far better in basic on chemotherapy than smokers, that said.

Meanwhile, the cancer society is hoping for an eventual decrease in lung cancer cases to mirror the decrease in cigarette smoking rates.

“Cigarette intake is down wherein it to be at the begin of people War II. About 1 in 5 human being are existing smokers,” Thun said.


“Lung cancer fatality rates have actually fallen 17 percent in men from 1990 come 2002. Both incidence and death rates have leveled turn off in women, so we are transforming the corner.”

As because that stigma, he would rather see the on those who offer cigarettes than those who usage them.

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“If there’s reprimand to walk around, many of the blame drops on the tobacco companies,” Thun said.