Medical Q&As

Shadow = cancer - children at risk?

Some time ago you answered a question about my mam who had a shadow on her lung. We didn't think that there was anything to worry about as all her scans, blood tests, etc. came back clear. But then they had to do a second biopsy as the scar was so small, and they then discovered a week ago that she has lung cancer. They say they can operate and remove it totally. My question is, are myself and my siblings more at risk of developing this cancer, as both my parents are smokers?

Clearly you have had a worrying time for the past number of weeks and I hope that all works out well for your mother. With regard to the cancer risk for you and your siblings I think the main risk factor for all of you is passive smoking. This is a subject of much research and debate and to my limited knowledge I donít think that particular risk can be quantified. However, the evidence does suggest that passive smoking creates some additional risk for the non-smoker. The level of risk would relate to the cumulative exposure to cigarette smoke over many years. In other words how many times were you exposed to cigarette smoke and how much smoke did you inhale over those years. It is a sad fact that if nobody in Ireland smoked, lung cancer would be an extremely rare disease. The number of cases that we would encounter in such a scenario would be reduced to a mere handful. Unfortunately the current reality is that we have several thousand cases of lung cancer every year. I have assumed in giving this answer that neither you nor your siblings are smokers. If any of you do smoke you would be well advised to stop. If you are passive smokers then there is some small additional risk but I hasten to add that I have never encountered a case of lung cancer in a passive smoker.