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What's the link between COPD and lung cancer?

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Both lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affect your lungs. Both can cause shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. COPD and lung cancer are usually thought of as separate illnesses that share some symptoms. But some research suggests they might be different ways the same disease process shows up.

Smoking damages your cells. Your body fights back with antioxidants and DNA repair mechanisms. But if these fail, you can get cancer or COPD.

The diseases are thought to share several links:

Genetic risk. Among people who smoke, genes might help determine who gets COPD and lung cancer. Researchers have found several genes that increase your risk of both.

Inflammation. Research shows that long-term lung inflammation is linked to both COPD and lung cancer. Inflammation makes your cells divide quickly to try to repair the damage. This raises the risk that the cells will mutate and turn into cancer.

Age. The older you are, the harder it is for your body to repair DNA damage. This might be the reason your cancer risk goes up with age (the median age for a lung cancer diagnosis is 66). Rates of COPD are 2 1/2 times higher in people over 60.

Smoking also increases your risk of getting both COPD and lung cancer.

SOURCES:

CDC.

Lung Cancer: “The relationship between COPD and lung cancer.”

The Application of Clinical Genetics: “Genetic evidence linking lung cancer and COPD: a new perspective.”

Clinical and Translational Medicine: “Inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and its role in cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.”

BMC Cancer: “Effect of COPD on symptoms, quality of life and prognosis in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.”

International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder: “Impact of COPD on prognosis of lung cancer: from a perspective on disease heterogeneity,” “Impact of chemotherapy in the prognosis of non-small-cell lung cancer patients with severe to very severe COPD.”

American Lung Association: “Treating COPD.”

SmokeFree.gov.

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on July 31, 2020

SOURCES:

CDC.

Lung Cancer: “The relationship between COPD and lung cancer.”

The Application of Clinical Genetics: “Genetic evidence linking lung cancer and COPD: a new perspective.”

Clinical and Translational Medicine: “Inflammation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and its role in cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.”

BMC Cancer: “Effect of COPD on symptoms, quality of life and prognosis in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.”

International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder: “Impact of COPD on prognosis of lung cancer: from a perspective on disease heterogeneity,” “Impact of chemotherapy in the prognosis of non-small-cell lung cancer patients with severe to very severe COPD.”

American Lung Association: “Treating COPD.”

SmokeFree.gov.

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on July 31, 2020

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