Lung cancer occurs in some non-smokers. A diet high in refined grains, such as white bread, appears to increase risk of lung cancer in non-smokers.
When Dana Reeve, wife of actor Christopher Reeve, announced she had lung cancer, she made sure to mention that she had never smoked cigarettes. Highly aware of how her celebrity might assist a worthy cause, she understood that lung cancer needed to be disassociated from cigarette smoking to better engage public concerns and raise critical funds for research. Now a study from MD Anderson Cancer Center uncovers a previously unknown risk factor for lung cancer in those who, like Reeve, have never smoked.
Eating foods with a high glycemic index, including carbs such as white bread, baked potatoes, and white rice, was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, say the researchers who set out to explain the lung cancer cases where smoking was not the cause. Including both smoking and non-smoking white participants, the study found the relationship between a high glycemic index diet and cancer to be particularly true for the non-smokers.
While the relationship between diet and different types of cancer may be difficult to measure, according to Cancer Research UK, scientists generally believe, based on past research, that less healthy diets — those that lack enough fruits, vegetables, and fiber — contribute to cancer risk in general.
Meanwhile, more than 158,000 deaths from lung cancer are expected in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society. About 14 percent of all new cancers are lung cancers. Ranked as the second most common cancer in men and women, lung cancer outranks all others as the leading cause of cancer mortality. Undoubtedly, tobacco, particularly smoking cigarettes, is the underlying cause of most instances of this disease, but it doesn’t account for all. A team of scientists led by Dr. Xifeng Wu, a professor of epidemiology, had an inkling from the start that the answer to what is causing the rest might be found in diet.