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Lung Cancer On The Rise In Women

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(KUTV) SALT LAKE CITY, Utah Its the number one cancer killer in women – and it isn't breast cancer. In this Healthy Living report, why lung cancer is on the rise – even in non-smoking women.

It was just a few months ago when Dana Reeve, the wife of Christopher Reeve, announced she had lung cancer. Reeve had never smoked. Doctors at LDS Hospital say its a story that's becoming all too common.

“We're actually seeing death rates from lung cancer – especially lung cancer in females and females who have been non smokers – continue to rise,” says thoracic surgeon Dr. Micheal Collins.

Lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer as the number one cancer killer in women and 20 percent of women with lung cancer have never smoked.

Doctors aren't sure why non smoking women are getting the disease but there are some theories.

• Of course, second hand smoke is a factor if the woman lives with a smoker.

• Genetics can play a strong role.

• Some studies show hormones may make women more susceptible to this disease.

• And another theory – the environment – since many women traditionally spend more time in the home where radon gas may be present.

“Does this expose them more to radon gas which is a cancer causing agent that exists in the homes?” wonders Dr. Collins.

The National Institute of Health is studying the issue. Doctors say until more is known, women should protect themselves by not smoking or exposing themselves to smoke. They should discuss screening options with their doctor if there is any history of cancer in the family – especially lung cancer.

“With routine screening exams we can maybe catch these cancers earlier,” says Dr. Collins.

Researchers are working on a blood test that could help screen for lung cancer. The test is similar to the PSA test that's used to detect prostate cancer, but it's only in the research and development stage.

(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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