Incidence trends and risk factors of lung cancer in never smokers: Pooled analyses of seven cohorts

Emilia Rissanen, Sanna Heikkinen, Karri Seppä, Heidi Ryynänen, Johan G. Eriksson, Tommi Härkänen, Pekka Jousilahti, Paul Knekt, Seppo Koskinen, Satu Männistö, Ossi Rahkonen, Harri Rissanen, Nea Malila, Maarit A. Laaksonen, Janne Pitkäniemi, METCA Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The trends in incidence of lung cancer in never smokers are unclear as well as the significance of risk factors. We studied time trends in the incidence and risk factors of lung cancer in never smokers in Finland in a large, pooled cohort. We pooled data from seven Finnish health cohorts from the period between 1972 and 2015 with 106 193 never smokers. The harmonised risk factors included education, alcohol consumption, physical activity, height and BMI. We retrieved incident lung cancers from the nation-wide Finnish Cancer Registry. We estimated average annual percent change (AAPC) and the effects of risk factors on cause-specific hazard ratios (HRs) of lung cancer using Poisson regression. We detected 47 lung cancers in never smoking men (n = 31 859) and 155 in never smoking women (n = 74 334). The AAPC of lung cancer incidence was −3.30% (95% confidence interval [CI]: −5.68% to −0.88%, P =.009) in never smoking men and 0.00% (95% CI: −1.57% to 1.60%, P =.996) in never smoking women. Of the five studied risk factors only greater height in women had a statistically significant increased risk of lung cancer (multivariate HR = 1.84, 95%CI: 1.08 to 3.12). It is plausible that tobacco control measures focused on working places have reduced passive smoking among men more than among women, which could explain the declining trend in lung cancer incidence in never smoker men but not in never smoker women. As tobacco control measures have not been targeted to domestic environments, it is likely that women's exposure to passive smoking has continued longer.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • incidence trend
  • lung cancer
  • never smokers
  • risk factors

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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