More than 12% of newly diagnosed lung cancer patients newer smoked cigarettes – study suggests

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July 7th 2021 : Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for over 80% of all fatalities from the disease. People who do not smoke, however, are also susceptible to lung cancer. According to a new study, around 12 people in every 100 who were recently diagnosed with lung cancer in the United States had never smoked cigarettes. The American Cancer Society and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborated on the research (ACS). The findings were published in JAMA Oncology in a study letter.

While past studies have found an increase in the number of lung cancer patients who had never smoked cigarettes in both the United States and the United Kingdom (UK), this study sheds further light on the rate at which lung cancer is identified. This study employed a large sample of approximately 129,000 instances of lung cancer based on data from cancer registries in seven states, rather than smaller studies that used data from local hospitals.

The information was gathered between 2011 and 2016, when the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries began collecting cigarette smoking history from patient medical records.

Newer insights on smoking and cancer

The study offers a more detailed look at recently diagnosed lung cancer patients based on their smoking history.

In “never smokers” (people with a recent diagnosis of lung cancer who never smoked), the researchers found a higher percentage of:

  • Women (about 16%) across all age groups, races/ethnicities, and most types of lung cancer  in comparison to men (about 10%).
  • People ages 20 to 49, including women (about 28%) and men (about 19%).
  • People with the adenocarcinoma type of non-small cell lung cancer, compared with other types of lung cancer. This was consistent with previous studies.

In “ever smokers” (people with a recent diagnosis of lung cancer who currently smoke or used to smoke), the researchers found a higher percentage of:

  • Men (90%) than women (84%). About half of men and women ages 20 to 64 were current smokers.
  • Current smokers who are Black compared to whites or Hispanics. 

Further research work required

Women and children are more likely than males to develop lung cancer if they have never smoked. The most prevalent kind of lung cancer in this group is adenocarcinoma. Exposure to secondhand smoke, radon, air pollution, and chemicals and materials at work, such as asbestos, are all risk factors for lung cancer that aren’t caused by smoking.

Future cancer research focusing on persons who have never smoked may aid researchers in better understanding the impact of genetic and other risk factors on lung cancer in people who have never smoked.

Smoking is still a big factor for lung cancer

According to ACS researchers Stacey Fedewa, PhD, and Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, who were co-authors of the study, the substantial percentage of ever smokers who were just diagnosed underlines “the need to strengthen and increase smoking cessation.” Previous ACS research has indicated that state and federal tobacco control programmes that promote smoking cessation, as well as more clinicians encouraging their patients to quit, can help achieve this goal.

The amount of packs of cigarettes smoked each day and the number of years smoked affects a person’s risk. People who smoke or have smoked in the past should talk to their doctor about their lung cancer risk and get screened with a low-dose CT (LDCT) scan.

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