According to an article recently published in the British Journal of Cancer, individuals who have family members diagnosed with lung cancer, particularly those whose family members were diagnosed at an early age, are at a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer themselves.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Although smoking is largely attributed to the prevalence of lung cancer, a significant portion of lung cancer patients have never smoked. Researchers continue to evaluate potential associations with the risk of developing lung cancer among both smokers and never-smokers. A particular area of interest is hereditary, or genetic, susceptibility to the disease.

Detecting and treating lung cancer in its earliest stages, prior to spread, significantly improves survival when compared to treating the disease 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, making optimal outcomes possible for these patients.

Researchers from London recently conducted a clinical study to evaluate potential familial associations for lung cancer. This study included 579 individuals who had been diagnosed with lung cancer and 1,157 individuals who did not have lung cancer (controls). Questionnaires regarding family history of lung cancer were obtained from these participants.

  • Participants under 60 years of age had a five-fold increased rate of lung cancer if they had first-degree relatives who had been diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 60 years or younger.
  • Participants of any age had an approximate two-fold increased rate of lung cancer if they had a first-degree relative who had been diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 60 years or younger.
  • The risk of developing lung cancer for a participant was increased as the number of relatives who had been diagnosed with lung cancer increased.

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The researchers concluded that individuals who have a family member who was diagnosed with lung cancer under the age of 60 years have a greater risk of developing lung cancer themselves. These results lend to a growing body of evidence indicating that a family history of lung cancer appears to be linked with a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Individuals may wish to discuss their family history of lung cancer with their physician, as well as their individual risks and benefits of screening for lung cancer.

Reference: Cassidy A, Myles J, Duffy S, et al. Family History and Risk of Lung Cancer: Age-At-Diagnosis in Cases and First-Degree Relatives. British Journal of Cancer. 2006:95;1288-1290.

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

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