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Susceptibility To Lung Cancer and COPD May Be Genetically Li

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NEW YORK JAN 03, 2006 (Reuters Health) - Research suggests that there may be a common underlying genetic susceptibility to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and reduced lung function.

If so, then a family history of these disorders should place individuals in the high-risk category, and if they also have a history of smoking, spiral computed tomography (CT) screening may be in order, investigators suggest in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine for January.

"Because cigarette smoking is such an overwhelming risk factor and preventable, the importance of family history and genetic susceptibility to lung cancer risk has been overlooked," co-author Dr. Ann G. Schwartz said in a press statement.

Dr. Schwartz and Dr. John C. Ruckdeschel, both from Wayne State University in Detroit, reviewed the literature regarding the role of familial risk in lung cancer.

They note that in one study, 13.7% of more than 26,000 patients with lung cancer had at least one first-degree relative with the same disease, and 52 families had at least three relatives with lung cancer. The mean age of onset was 60 years for those with a family history, compared with 70 years of age in the general population. The median age of onset for the youngest family members was 50.5 years.

They also found studies suggesting linkage between regions on chromosomes 6 and 12 with lung function, COPD, and lung, laryngeal and pharyngeal cancer.

Candidate susceptibility genes include those encoding alpha-1-antitrypsin, neutrophil elastase, matrix metalloproteinases, and cytokines and receptor antagonists, and microsomal epoxide hydrolase.

"We are of the opinion that studies of spiral computed tomography screening and lung function testing are warranted in current or former smokers with a strong family history of lung cancer, particularly when age at diagnosis of the family member is young," Drs. Schwartz and Ruckdeschel conclude.

The researchers also recommend that clinicians inquire about family history of lung cancer in patients with COPD, and vice versa, as well as age of disease onset, so that "referral into screening programs and prevention trials can be better targeted to reach families with both a history of lung cancer and COPD."


Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2006;173:16-22.

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