Women smokers prone to lung cancer, but fewer die
NEW YORK – In agreement with several recent reports, a new study indicates that women who smoke are more likely to develop lung cancer than their male counterparts, yet they are also more likely to survive the malignancy. The findings appear in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.
“If lung cancer risk for women who smoke is indeed higher than the risk for men of the same age who smoke, as indicated by the evidence presented here, this suggests that antismoking efforts directed toward girls and women need to be even more serious than those directed toward boys and men,” Dr. Claudia I. Henschke, of New York Presbyterian Hospital, and colleagues emphasize.
The study involved 7498 women and 9427 men who were screened for lung cancer with a CT scan between 1993 and 2005. All of the subjects had a history of cigarette smoking, were at least 40 years of age, and had no symptoms of lung cancer.
Lung cancer was diagnosed in 2.1% of women, but in only 1.2% of men, the investigators report. Thus, women were 90% more likely to develop the malignancy.
As noted, women with lung cancer were less likely to die from it than men — mortality in women was about half the rate observed for men.
“The reasons women live longer with lung cancer than men are unclear,” Dr. Alfred I. Neuget and Dr. Judith S. Jacobson, from Columbia University in New York, comment in a related editorial.
Is it related to “body size, better health behaviors, hormonal and reproductive factors, different cigarette smoking histories or patterns, or other factors?” they wonder.
Whatever the answer, a better understanding of the “tumor and host factors that underlie the female survival advantage in lung cancer could potentially yield major benefits for the treatment of both sexes,” they say.