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Lung Cancer Risk Double in Women

Researchers Unclear Why Women More at Risk

WebMD Health News

Dec. 1, 2003 -- Women smokers are twice as likely to develop lung cancer as men smokers, say researchers.

They found that lung cancer risk among women was double that of men, independent of how much they smoked, says researcher Claudia I. Henschke, MD, PhD in a news release. "There is as yet no clear consensus why women are at increased risk," Henschke, professor of radiology and division chief of chest imaging at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

The researchers followed nearly 3,000 men and women, aged 40 and older, who smoke or had smoked regularly at some point in the past. During the study each participant was screened several times with a CT scan to look for signs of lung cancer.

Women Have Twice the Risk

As suspected, lung cancer risk rose along with the number of years a person smoked. But Henschke and colleagues also found that women had twice the lung cancer risk of men. The frequency of lung cancer also increased with age -- tending to go up after people hit age 50.

The researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. The study is part of a larger trial evaluating the use of CT scans for lung cancer screening. At this point, there is no consensus as to whether CT scans are beneficial for screening people at high risk of lung cancer, such as smokers.

In 2003, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there will be about 172,000 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S. -- 92,000 of them will be men and 80,000 of them women. Overall, smoking is more common among men than women. In 1999, about 26% of men were smokers compared with 22% of women, according to the CDC.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women with about 157,000 people dying each year from lung cancer -- 88,000 men and 69,000 women. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined, according to the ACS.

SOURCES: 89th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North American (RSNA). American Cancer Society. CDC.

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