Lung Cancer in Black Relative Ups Family's Risk
Highest Risk Seen in Close Relatives of Blacks With Lung Cancer Before 50
June 21, 2005 -- Men and women with a black brother, sister, child, or
parent who had lung cancer before age 50 may have a higher risk of lung
That's also true for families with a white relative who had lung cancer at
an early age. But the risk is twice as high for relatives of black patients,
says a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
"First-degree relatives of black individuals with early onset lung
cancer have greater risk of lung cancer than their white counterparts, and
these risks are further amplified by cigarette smoking," write
Study: Consider Family History
The take-home message: Pay attention to family history of early onset lung
cancer, say the researchers, who included Michele Coté, PhD, of Wayne State
University's Karmanos Cancer Institute.
If someone in the family had lung cancer before age 50, that should be
considered a lung cancer risk factor in their children, parents, or siblings
who are at least 18 years old, notes Coté's study.
If doctors know about risk factors beyond tobacco use in their young adult
patients, they may be more likely to consider lung cancer in those people.
Earlier diagnosis and treatment could make a big difference in the disease's
outcome, write researchers.
When Lung Cancer Strikes
"Cigarette smoking has long been established as the major risk factor
for lung cancer in the general population," write the researchers. However,
lung cancer risk can also run in some families beyond smoking. The greatest
risk is in families in which lung cancer strikes before 50, say Coté and
In 2004, there were 173,770 new cases of lung cancer in the U.S. Few cases
-- 6.7% -- were diagnosed before age 50, says the study.
Lung Cancer Study
Coté's study included more than 7,500 relatives of 692 people with early
onset lung cancer and 773 healthy people. All were at least 18 years old and
lived in the Detroit area. A third of the group was black.
The data showed a higher lung cancer risk for aging smokers with a brother,
sister, or parent who had had lung cancer before 50 compared with those who
have relatives whose lung cancer occurred at an older age.
The risk rose when the affected relative was black. By age 70, lung cancer
risk was 25% higher for those with an affected black relative, compared with
17% higher for whites.
Relatives of black patients were twice as likely to get lung cancer as
relatives of whites. That takes age, sex, pack-years of smoking, pneumonia, and
chronic obstructive lung disease into consideration.
Why the Difference?
The reasons for the black-white gap aren't settled in this study. The
researchers say genetics may play a role, but that's not certain and other
factors could also be involved.
"Our findings demonstrate that lung cancer risk associated with family
history of lung cancer is stronger in blacks than in whites," say the
researchers. They note that previous studies had similar results, though theirs
is the first to report risks for black families.
Ongoing trials should be done to test screening methods for people with a
family history of early onset lung cancer, say Coté and colleagues.