Top 2 Ethnic Groups for Lung Cancer

Smoking and Ethnicity May Sway Lung Cancer Risk

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 25, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 25, 2006 -- Blacks and native Hawaiians who smoke may be particularly vulnerable to lung cancer, a new study shows.

The study tracked lung cancer among more than 183,000 people of various ethnic groups over eight years. Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths for U.S. adults.

Among people who reported smoking fewer than 30 daily cigarettes, blacks and native Hawaiians were more likely than whites, Japanese-Americans, and Hispanics to develop lung cancer.

Heavy smoking (more than 30 cigarettes per day) threatened all races about the same, states the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers included Christopher Haiman, ScD, of the preventive medicine department at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

Lung Cancer Study

Men and women in California and Hawaii took part in the study. The researchers chose them randomly from government records, including lists of registered voters and people with driver's licenses.

Starting in 1993-1996, participants completed surveys about their smoking habits, medical conditions, family history of cancer, diet, and other factors.


The group had 1,979 cases of lung cancer by the time the study ended in 2001. Lung cancer's racial pattern occurred in men and women.

The findings echo other studies but are hard to explain, the researchers note. They add that other factors -- like participants' intake of fruits and vegetables -- didn't explain the results.

Nicotine and tobacco smoke may work a bit differently in different ethnic groups, write Haiman and colleagues. They call for studies to probe that possibility.

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SOURCE: Haiman, C. The New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 26, 2006; vol 354: pp 333-342.
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