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Lung Cancer in Black Relative Ups Family's Risk

Highest Risk Seen in Close Relatives of Blacks With Lung Cancer Before 50
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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 cancer.

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 researchers.

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 colleagues.

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.

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