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According to an article recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, exposure to bacterial endotoxin may reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. However, further study is necessary to confirm these findings.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Because of its high mortality rates, researchers continue to evaluate ways to prevent or reduce the development of this disease. Although smoking is the largest contributor to lung cancer, other environmental and genetic variables also appear to play a role in the risk of its development.

Researchers from Seattle, Washington, and Shanghai, China, recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate a potential association between exposure to bacterial endotoxin and a reduced risk of developing lung cancer. Bacterial endotoxin is a toxin produced by some bacteria that is released when the bacteria is destroyed. Based on reports that there had been a reduced incidence of lung cancer among cotton textile workers since the 1970s, this study evaluated nearly 270,000 female textile workers from Shanghai. Participants worked in the cotton textile industry, where they were exposed to bacterial endotoxin because it is a contaminant of raw cotton fiber and cotton dust.

  • Highest exposure to endotoxin resulted in a 40% reduced risk of lung cancer compared with no exposure to endotoxin.
  • The reduction in lung cancer was greatest among women who had been exposed to endotoxin for 20 years.
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The researchers concluded that exposure to endotoxin appears to significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer, particularly among women with the greatest exposure for the longest amount of time.

Reference: Astrakianakis G, Seixas N, Ray R, et al. Lung cancer risk among female textile workers exposed to endotoxin. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2007; 99: 357-364.

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