Sharon Begley’s Swan Song

Yes, cigarette smoking remains the top cause of lung cancer—but for the 12% of US lung cancer patients who’ve never smoked, the diagnosis comes as a particular shock, reports STAT’s Sharon Begley.
And she would know. On January 16, Begley, herself a never-smoker, died of complications of lung cancer.

In the final article of her remarkable career, Begley explores how the disease differs between those who’ve smoked and those who never did.

  • Never-smokers make up a growing proportion of lung cancer cases, and researchers believe this is due to an actual increase in incidence rather than a “statistical anomaly.”
  • Among many unknowns, there is one standout risk factor: sex. Women never-smokers are 2X as likely to develop lung cancer as male never-smokers.

 Some researchers have argued that lung cancer among never-smokers should be regarded as its own disease, with its own drug.

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