According to an article recently published in the International Journal of Cancer, further data indicates that among individuals who have never smoked, a family history of lung cancer significantly increases risk of developing lung cancer and other cancers.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Although smoking is known to be associated with the development of lung cancer, it is now being recognized that genetics, or a family history of lung cancer, also increases the risk of developing lung cancer, even among individuals who have never smoked. Researchers continue to evaluate the link between family history and lung cancer so that individuals at a high risk of developing the disease may be identified and screened for detection and treatment of early lung cancer, when the disease is most treatable.

Researchers from the University of Texas recently conducted a clinical study to further evaluate the risk of developing lung cancer among individuals with first-degree relatives who have been diagnosed with lung cancer. The study included 316 patients with lung cancer who were never-smokers (cases) and 2,465 first-degree relatives of these patients. Also included were 318 individuals who did not have lung cancer and were never-smokers (controls) and 2,441 first-degree relatives of these patients. Rates of lung cancer among the two groups of patients and their relatives were evaluated.

  • Overall, first-degree relatives of cases had a 25% increased risk of developing any type of cancer compared to first-degree relatives of controls.
  • The offspring of cases had a twofold increased risk of developing cancer compared to offspring of controls.
  • Relatives of cases had a 44% increased risk of developing cancer early (before age 50) compared with relatives of controls.
  • Relatives of cases who smoked had nearly a 40% increased risk of developing any type of cancer and a more than 5.5-fold risk of developing young onset lung cancer compared with relatives of controls who smoked.
  • Female relatives of cases had a 58% increased risk of breast cancer, while mothers of cases had nearly a 2.6-fold increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Increased risk of testicular cancer was reported in relatives of cases.
  • The age of lung cancer diagnosis tended to be younger among relatives of cases (61.4 years) compared with relatives of controls (66.2 years).

The researchers concluded, “Our analysis provides further evidence for the importance of genetic factors for lung cancer in never smokers.” These data add to a growing body of evidence that lung cancer appears to have a strong genetic association. Individuals with family members who have been diagnosed with lung cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their potential risk for developing lung cancer. As well, individuals with a family history of lung cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of screening for lung cancer.

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Reference: Gorlova O, Weng S, Zhang Y, et al. Aggregation of cancer among relatives of never-smoking lung cancer patients. International Journal of Cancer [early online publication]. January 4, 2007. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.22615.

Related News:

Further Data Indicates Hereditary Link to Lung Cancer (11/16/2006)

Family History of Lung Cancer Doubles Risk (10/10/2006)

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