CancerConnect News: The risk of developing non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is higher for women and smokers according to the results of a recent study published by a team of doctors led by Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Chair of Cancer Prevention and Control from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Researchers have believed that estrogen plays a key role in lung cancer development and this appears to explain why women and smokers may be at higher risk for lung cancer. Now they have identified a link among smoking, sex, and hormones specifically in patients with NSCLC.
The research team collected tumor samples from 813 men and women with NSCLC in an attempt to identify the association between both smoking status and sex and the expression of different hormone receptors in the lung. The researchers found that the expression of estrogen receptor beta (ER-β), a hormone receptor that is known to inhibit tumor growth, was lower in women than in men, which supports the idea that women are in fact more susceptible to lung cancer. Levels of this hormone receptor were particularly low in postmenopausal women and in those who had never used hormone therapy, suggesting that a decrease in the amount of circulating estrogen could be responsible. Other studies have suggested that expression of ER-β in NSCLC patients is lower in women than men, but the Roswell Park study is the first to confirm this sex difference.
The researchers also found that smoking influences hormone expression in both men and women. Lung tumors of smokers had higher levels of estrogen receptor alpha (ER-α), which is known to promote tumor growth, than the tumors of nonsmokers. Smokers also tended to have lower expression of progesterone receptors, which contributes to a poorer prognosis, because progesterone can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
“Our findings suggest that smoking increases an individual’s cancer risk by disrupting important hormone pathways,” notes the study authors “Smoking cessation is therefore important for both women and men in order to preserve the integrity of hormone receptors.”
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is a community united by the drive to eliminate cancer’s grip on humanity by unlocking its secrets through personalized approaches and unleashing the healing power of hope. Founded by Dr. Roswell Park in 1898, it is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Upstate New York.