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Lung Cancer - Non Smoking Women


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February 12, 2007 - A new study suggests the rate of lung cancer among non-smoking women may be twice that of previous estimates.

NON-smoking women account for a lot more lung cancer cases than previously thought.

In a nationwide survey, Stanford University researchers found that 20 per cent of the women with lung cancer never smoked, nearly double the rate currently accepted by the american cancer society.

Just 8 per cent of men who get lung cancer are non-smokers.

The researchers think women get more exposure to secondhand smoke at home, and on the job.

The death of actress and activist Dana Reeve last March put the issue into the spotlight. Reeve was never a smoker, and her battle with lung cancer made millions of people aware for the first time that nonsmokers get the disease.

It has been believed that between 10% and 15% of lung cancer cases occur in people with no smoking history, but Wakelee says there has been little hard data to back up the figure.

"That is one of the main reasons we did this study," she says.

Wakelee and colleagues from Stanford and the Northern California Cancer Center tracked lung cancer incidence and deaths in more than 1 million people between ages 40 and 79 and living in the United States or Sweden.

They then calculated lung cancer cases in terms of new cases per person-year.

The researchers noted that age-adjusted lung cancer rates among current smokers are roughly 12 to 30 times higher than rates in people who never smoked.

But if the numbers are representative of the overall U.S. population, the inference is that about 8% of lung cancer cases in men and 20% of cases in women are among never-smokers, according to study co-author Ellen T. Chang.

The study is published in the Feb. 10 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

It is still not clear if the lung cancer rate among never-smokers is growing or if the disease is as deadly in never-smokers.

And though there are many theories about why nonsmokers get lung cancer, little research has been done on the subject.

Air pollution, exposure to radon, and occupational exposure to asbestos have all been implicated in lung cancer risk. But most experts suspect that secondhand cigarette smoke exposure is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer among people who have never smoked.

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