Lung Cancer Incidence in Smokers Varies Across Ethnic Groups

Lung Cancer Incidence in Smokers Varies Across Ethnic Groups

According to an article recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, among smokers, African Americans and Native Hawaiians appear to be more susceptible to developing lung cancer than whites, Japanese Americans, and Latinos.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. In fact, lung cancer kills more people annually than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Unfortunately, the majority of lung cancers are detected once they have spread from the lung; cure rates remain dismal at this point.

Statistics demonstrate that the incidence of lung cancer seems to vary considerably among ethnic and racial groups in the U.S. In addition, it appears that different ethnic groups may respond differently to certain types of therapy for lung cancer.

Based on these findings, researchers from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of Hawaii recently conducted a study to evaluate data regarding the incidence of lung cancer among smokers in various ethnic groups. This study included 183,813 men and women from the Multiethnic Cohort Study, which included African-American, Japanese-American, Latino, Native Hawaiian, and white participants. Individuals were followed over an 8-year period and were categorized by the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

  • Among individuals who smoked 30 or fewer cigarettes per day, the incidence of lung cancer was significantly higher among African Americans and Native Hawaiians than other ethnic or racial groups.
  • Rates of lung cancer did not significantly differ between African Americans and Native Hawaiians.
  • Among individuals who smoked 20 cigarettes or fewer per day, African Americans had an increased risk of developing lung cancer over Japanese Americans or Latinos of between approximately 60%-80% and an approximate increase of 40%-65% over whites.
  • Japanese Americans and Latinos had significantly lower rates of lung cancer incidence than whites.
  • Among individuals who smoked more than 30 cigarettes per day, differences in the incidence of lung cancer across ethnic groups were not significant.

The researchers concluded that it appears that smokers from different ethnic and racial groups have varying susceptibility to developing lung cancer. However, this difference appears to diminish among smokers who smoke more than 30 cigarettes per day.

Reference: Haiman C, Stram D, Wilkens L, et al. Ethnic and Racial Differences in the Smoking-Related Risk of Lung Cancer. New England

Journal of Medicine. 2006; 354:333-342.

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