Smokers aren’t the only ones who can contract lung cancer. New data show that the disease is spreading to non-smokers who inhale second-hand smoke or who live or work in environments filled with pollutants such as asbestos, arsenic, benzopyrene, chromium, nickel and pesticides. The new data, which a top group of scientists will present at the 14th Panhellenic Conference of Thoracic Diseases from tomorrow to Sunday in Thessaloniki, indicate that between 15 and 18 percent of lung cancer victims are non-smokers who contract the disease through such exposure. Lung-related cancers usually hit both males and females after the age of 35 and especially between the ages of 55 and 65. «The last few studies show that the development of adenocarcinoma [or cancer that begins in cells that have glandular, or secretory, properties] in smokers and non-smokers takes a difference course [than smoking-related cancer],» said Costas Zarogoulidis, president of the group organizing the conference. «These last observations, if confirmed, will change our philosophy of choice for treatment of this disease.» The incidence of lung cancer has risen considerably over the last few years. In Greece, about 60 in 100,000 people develop some form of lung-related cancer every year and another 40 in 100,000 die from it. These numbers correspond with the rates in the rest of Europe, say scientists involved in the study. In the US last year, some 160,000 people died from lung-related cancers. Scientists have recently noticed a worldwide jump in glandular-related cancer of the lung – from 18 percent to 40 percent. In the last five years, death from this type of cancer increased 10 percent in women (from 33.9 percent to 44.9 percent). Scientists are studying whether estrogen-replacement therapy may have something to do with the increase. The incidence of other diseases of the thorax, such as bronchial asthma, has also increased, scientists say. Bronchial asthma, the most common disease affecting young people, plagues children and adults of all ages. Its incidence in Western Europe has doubled in the last decade, says Despina Papacosta, a lecturer in pulmonary medicine at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. In Greece, bronchial asthma affects between 7 and 10 percent of children and 5 to 7 percent of non-smoking adults. Meanwhile, lung-related diseases such as bronchial asthma among smokers have also increased.