First-Degree Relatives of Patients Diagnosed with Lung Cancer Who Never Smoked At Higher Risk of Developing Cancer

First-Degree Relatives of Patients Diagnosed with Lung Cancer Who Never Smoked At Higher Risk of Developing Cancer

According to results presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), first-degree relative of patients who had never smoked but had been diagnosed with lung cancer have an increased risk of developing cancer within their lifetime, particularly cancers that occur before the age of 50.

In most cases, detecting and treating cancer in its earliest stages, prior to spread, significantly improves survival when compared to treating of the cancer in more advanced stages.

Research has therefore focused on identifying individuals who are at a higher risk of developing specific cancers so they can be frequently screened for the disease. The hope is that the cancer can be detected and treated as early as possible, ensuring optimal outcomes for these patients.

Researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas recently conducted a study to evaluate the risk of developing cancers among first-degree relatives of patients with lung cancer who had never smoked. Approximately 13% of patients with lung cancer have never smoked (never-smokers).

The study included 2,465 individuals who were first-degree relatives of patients who had never smoked and were diagnosed with lung cancer. They were compared to 2,442 first-degree relatives of individuals who did not have lung cancer (control group).

First-degree relatives of lung cancer patients were at a significantly higher risk of developing cancer within their lifetime:

  • Overall, first-degree relatives of never-smoker lung cancer patients had a 25% increased risk of developing any type of cancer within their lifetime compared to the control group.
  • Young-onset cancers (cancer diagnosed prior to the age of 50 years) were increased by 44% among first-degree relatives of never-smoker lung cancer patients compared to the control group.
  • Male first-degree relatives of lung cancer patients who were never smokers had a 36% increased risk of developing cancer within their lifetime and an 89% increased risk of developing young-onset cancer.
  • The offspring of never-smoker lung cancer patients had a two-fold increased risk of developing cancer.
  • The risk of young-onset lung cancer was increased six-fold among first-degree relatives of never-smokers who developed lung cancer.
  • If they smoked, family members of never-smoker lung cancer patients had a 68% increased risk of developing lung cancer compared to the control group.
  • Breast cancer and testicular cancer risks were greatly increased among first-degree relatives of never-smoker lung cancer patients.

The researchers concluded that first-degree family members of patients diagnosed with lung cancer who never smoked have a significantly increased risk of developing cancer within their lifetime. These family members may wish to discuss their risks with their physician.

Reference: Gorlova O, et al. Aggregation of cancer among relatives of never smoking lung cancer patients. Proceedings from the 2006 annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting. April 2006. Abstract 436.

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