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According to a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, first-degree relatives of patients with early-onset lung cancer have an increased risk of smoking-induced lung cancer. This risk is greater in black individuals than in white individuals.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths of both men and women in the United States. One explanation for this high death rate is that standard screening procedures fail to routinely detect lung cancer at an early enough stage to cure with standard therapies. Researchers are currently evaluating different screening methods in clinical trials to determine the most effective method of detecting lung cancer early enough to improve survival, while controlling medical expenses. Costs can be reduced by screening patients at the highest risk of developing lung cancer.

A recent clinical study conducted by researchers from Karmanos Cancer Institute sought to identify persons at a high risk for developing smoking-related lung cancer. The researchers evaluated data from 7576 first-degree relatives of 692 individuals diagnosed with lung cancer before 50 years of age (early-onset lung cancer). Overall, among white individuals, first-degree relatives of early onset lung cancer patients had a 17.1 percent chance of developing smoking-induced lung cancer by the time they were seventy years of age. Among black individuals, that rate was increased to 25.1 percent.

The researchers concluded that individuals who smoke and have a first-degree relative diagnosed with early-onset lung cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease. Furthermore, data revealed that black individuals’ risk of developing smoking-induced lung cancer is higher than their white counterparts. Patients who are smokers and have a first-degree relative diagnosed with early-onset lung cancer should speak with their physician about screening for lung cancer.

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Reference: Cote ML, Kardia SLR, Wenzlaff AS.Risk of lung cancer among white and black relatives of individuals with early-onset lung cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2005;293:3036-3043.

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