Adenocarcinoma of the lungs is the most common type of lung cancer. It’s also the type of lung cancer most likely to be diagnosed in people who’ve never smoked.

The most common type of lung cancer diagnosed in the United States is a non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) called adenocarcinoma. Exact numbers vary, but it’s estimated that 40% of lung cancers diagnosed today are adenocarcinomas.

Previous smoking puts you at a higher risk for this type of cancer, but it’s not the only risk factor. Some people who are diagnosed with adenocarcinoma have never smoked at all.

The number of people who die of lung cancer each year is decreasing. But detecting adenocarcinoma in the lungs as early as possible is key to the best outcome with this diagnosis.

This reviews what we currently know about adenocarcinoma of the lungs and how the risks, symptoms, and prevalence compare to other types of lung cancers.

An adenocarcinoma is any cancer growth that starts in glandular tissue. Your breasts, colon, pancreas, lungs, and certain other organs have this type of tissue.

Adenocarcinoma of the lungs typically starts in the glands in the outer part of your lungs that produce mucous. From there, the cancer may spread to other parts of your lungs.

Adenocarcinoma of the lungs is classified as a non-small cell lung cancer (NCSLC). These types of cancers do not grow as quickly as small cell lung cancers (SCLC), but they are diagnosed much more frequently.

Treatment typically includes surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. Targeted therapies or immunotherapy may also be considered.

Adenocarcinoma compared to other types of lung cancersPrevalence
squamous cell carcinoma20-25%
large cell lung carcinoma10-15%
small-cell lung cancer10-15%
lung carcinoid tumors and other types of lung cancersLess than 5%

Anyone can get adenocarcinoma of the lungs. People of all gender identities are diagnosed with this condition. The two things that can increase your risk the most are smoking and genetic factors.

Smoking is linked to between 80 to 90% of lung cancer deaths, according to the CDC. People who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day are at an elevated risk. Living with someone who smokes can elevate your risk via secondhand smoke exposure.

With that being said, adenocarcinoma of the lungs is often linked to genetic mutations. These mutations can be passed down through your family (inherited), or they can occur during your lifetime (acquired). Acquired genetic mutations are found in 70% of adenocarcinomas of the lung.

Other risk factors for adenocarcinoma of the lung include:

  • being 65 or older
  • radon exposure
  • asbestos exposure
  • heavy metal exposure

The early symptoms of adenocarcinoma of the lungs can vary widely on a case-by-case basis. Symptoms of this type of lung cancer can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss
  • chest pain
  • wheezing
  • coughing up blood or mucus
  • recurring respiratory infections

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, visit a doctor. If you do have adenocarcinoma of the lungs, the earlier you begin treatment, the better your outcome.

Adenocarcinoma of the lungs is the most common type of lung cancer. It’s also the type of lung cancer most likely to be diagnosed in people who’ve never smoked.

Since the primary risk factor of all lung cancers is smoking, it’s easy for this type of lung cancer to go unnoticed by people who don’t smoke or who’ve never smoked.

People who have a family history of lung cancer, previous smokers, and people who’ve lived with smokers should ask their doctor about regular screenings to check for all types of lung cancer.

If you’re having symptoms of adenocarcinoma of the lung, talk with your doctor. Lung cancer doesn’t just affect smokers, people assigned male at birth, or those over the age of 65. Early detection of any type of lung cancer leads to the best possible outcome.