That lung cancer can occur in non-smokers is not news. Joe Paterno, the storied football coach at Pennsylvania State University, is a case in point. Coach Paterno died of small-cell carcinoma on January 22, 2012.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, reporting on Paterno’s death, quotes oncologist Barbara Campling from the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “It’s extremely rare to have small-cell cancer in a nonsmoker,” Campling says. About 13 percent of lung cancers are small-cell carcinomas, Campling continues. However, these cancers usually occur in current smokers or people who have been heavy smokers in the past.