Women smokers may not be at greater risk for lung cancer than their male counterparts. These results were recently published in Lancet Oncology.

Lung cancer claims more lives every year than any other type of cancer. In fact, lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined.

It is well known that smoking is associated with a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer. However, there has been recent debate as to whether female smokers are more susceptible to developing lung cancer than male smokers.

To further explore the possible association between gender, smoking, and lung cancer risk, researchers from the National Institutes of Health analyzed data from a questionnaire sent to participants of the NIH-AARP Diet and Health study. Participants responded to the questionnaire between 1995 and 1996 and were followed through the end of 2003. The data included nearly 280,000 men and approximately 186,000 women.

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Among smokers the incidence of lung cancer was modestly higher among men than women.

The researchers concluded: “Our findings suggest that women are not more susceptible than men to the carcinogenic effects of cigarette smoking in the lung. Future studies should confirm whether incidence rates are indeed higher in women who have never smoked than in men who have never smoked.”

Reference: Freedman N, Leitzmann M, Hollenbeck A, Schatzkin A, Abnet C. Cigarette smoking and subsequent risk of lung cancer in men and women: analysis of a prospective cohort study. The Lancet. 2008; 9:649-656.

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