"We are seeing an increasing number of patients who do not have a smoking history, so-called 'never smokers' who are developing lung cancer as Dana Reeve did," said UNC ocologist Dr. Mark Socinski.
Health experts claim lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. It kills more people than breast, prostate, liver and kidney cancers combined.
Socinski said nine out of 10 people with lung cancer are smokers or former smokers. The one case out of 10 may have a family history of lung cancer.
Dana Reeve announced eight months ago she was in treatment for the disease. Everyone hoped she would beat the cancer and no one expected death so soon.
"We see patients that develop very aggressive cancers, and we see patients that develop very indolent cancers and who survive for several years," Socinski said.
Socinski hopes Reeve's death will create the kind of awareness that will lead to real medical advances.
Even though lung cancer is, by far, the leading cause of cancer deaths, health officials said it does not get anywhere near the research funding that breast or prostate cancer receives.
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