Researchers show smoking ISN’T the only cause of lung cancer

I just reviewed the results of a major, new study that identified genetic predisposition and chronic inflammation as two major causes of lung cancer. And I have to say, I’ve understood that would be the case for four decades now—and have been waiting for a study to come to this very conclusion.

This moment took so long to arrive because way back in the mid-1980s, all the research into the genetic and environmental causes of lung cancer came to an abrupt halt. I know because I was in the room at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) when some behavioral science bureaucrats made the misguided pronouncement that smoking was the one and only cause of lung cancer. So, in turn, they decided to pour almost all lung cancer funding into politically correct smoking cessation programs.

Then, in the early 1990s, the Assistant Secretary for Health and other unelected federal bureaucrats made another unfounded decision…this time, regarding the supposed dangers of “second hand smoke.” (Again, I know this firsthand because I was in the room when the decision was made.)

The actual, scientific evidence did not suggest that second-hand smoke could cause lung cancer. But, as you might expect, these bureaucrats didn’t let that lack of sufficient evidence hold them back.

They proceeded, full-steam ahead. And eventually, they succeeded in banning smoking in many public places, blindly burdening the entire population on the basis of flawed, incomplete evidence—which was a clear abuse of “scientific authority.”

But it’s ridiculous to think that some random “exposures” to “second-hand” smoke, diluted into the expansive air in a room, or outdoor space, could carry the same effects as concentrated smoke inhaled directly into the tiny spaces of the lungs from excessive tobacco use.

Plus, as I’ve explained before, humans have been inhaling copious amounts of “second-hand” smoke from fires for two million years…a lot more than can be produced by a cigarette.

Human lungs evolved to handle some exposure to smoke

Humans have been inhaling smoke while they cook and warm themselves since the discovery of fire about two million years ago.

As a result, human lungs developed natural defenses against smoke and products of combustion. In fact, we have billions of cells dedicated to clearing smoke particles from the lungs. Our lungs also produce enzymes that neutralize and detoxify products of combustion.

Plus, campfires expose you to much higher levels of smoke than what you typically encounter through tobacco smoking (or through claims about second-hand tobacco smoke!).

So—as I’ve always said—there’s clearly something more to lung cancer than just smoke exposure, or even smoking.

And that brings us back to the new study I mentioned at the beginning of this Dispatch

Another take on lung cancer

Thankfully, in a new study, some dedicated researchers finally looked beyond smoking as the end-all and be-all of lung cancer and lung disease. And they published their report in Nature Communications, arguably the leading scientific journal in the world.

For this study, the researchers looked at genetic data for nearly 30,000 people with lung cancer and matched it against genetic data for more than 50,000 healthy, cancer-free controls.

And they came away with three major findings…

First, they found there are specific genes that increase a person’s susceptibility to lung cancer (with or without the presence of smoking). These genes also make them more susceptible to developing other lung diseases as well.

Second, up to 70 percent of patients diagnosed with lung cancer also have some other type of lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This finding suggests that pre-existing pulmonary impairment increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

Third, the researchers think this impairment happens because of some type of flaw in immune system response, which leads to chronic inflammation in the lungs. In fact, according to the study’s co-author, Rayjean Hung, “Our research suggests that it’s underlying dysfunction of immune regulation that can lead to lung cancer, as if a shield is down.”

And it would make sense that chronic inflammation is involved—as it’s at the root of many chronic diseases, including other types of cancer, heart disease, and Type II diabetes. In fact, more than a century ago, German pathologists found that lung cancers arose in areas of chronic inflammation and scarring. But the pathologists at NCI certainly didn’t talk about it. And I only knew about it because one of my pathology professors, Dr. Else Olen, was from Germany.

So, there you have it.

Smoking is NOT the be-all, end-all of lung cancer. Clearly, your genetics, a prior history of lung disease, inflammation, lung scarring, and even impaired immune system all play a part.

Hopefully, this new understanding will help advance research into these other causes of lung cancer. And perhaps it will also help victims of lung cancer better understand the origins of their disease…instead of just blaming smokers.

Just imagine how much further along we could be today in combatting this No. 1 cancer killer if way back in the 1980s (or even the 1920s) the government had continued to follow the clues about all the other factors that determine risk, regardless of smoking.

Fortunately, even if you have a genetic predisposition or a history of chronic inflammation or lung disease, there are many natural steps you can take to protect your lungs. And you can learn about them in my Breathe Better Lung Health Protocol.

This innovative, online protocol is the sum total of more than 40 years of personal research, study, and experience. And every solution you’ll hear about has been studied and researched by countless, cutting-edge medical institutions. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!


“Immune-mediated genetic pathways resulting in pulmonary function impairment increase lung cancer susceptibility.” Nature Communications 2020; 11(27).