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Two New Studies Find Lung Cancer Not Just For Smokers

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New details of the long-term affects of secondhand smoke are detailed in two studies in the December 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (CEBP), a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The December issue features a special focus on tobacco studies, including lung cancer in minorities, risk for tobacco experimentation, the impact of popular culture and the effect of alternative products, such as herbal cigarettes.

In the special edition, one study found that adults have an increased risk of developing lung cancer when exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke as children, even if they never smoke themselves.

Curtis C. Harris, MD, chief of the laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis at the National Cancer Institute and one of the study's authors, said this year alone, more than 219,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer; of those, more than 72.6 percent (159,000+) will die because of it.

“Some of those will be people who have never smoked themselves. Studies to date have shown that exposure to secondhand smoke in adulthood has detrimental health effects, but data are limited on one's risk of developing lung cancer when exposure occurs in childhood,” he said.

Harris' research is different from previous studies in that it was conducted in two independent cohorts—The NCI Maryland Lung Cancer Study and a Mayo Clinic lung cancer study— and then combined data from a molecular analysis using DNA to genotype a protein encoding gene, known as MBL2. The MBL2 gene variants allow natural [innate] immunity to occur within the body. Deficiencies of this gene have been known to affect an individual's susceptibility to autoimmune, infectious and respiratory diseases.

Harris and colleagues not only found an association between childhood exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and an increased incidents of lung cancer in adulthood, but also that MBL2 inactivity was associated with an heightened risk among those exposed to secondhand smoking in childhood.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Yep, there have been many spouses exposed to second-hand smoke who develop lung cancer and like Pat said, it's no surprise. It has been warned for years that second-hand smoke is just as dangerous if not worse than smoking the actual cigarette. That's why my husband, who is a smoker, absolutely does not smoke in our house or around us. If he needs to smoke outside he will either give me a heads up or walk far away from the baby and me. It's important that the people who smoke around us realize that we choose NOT to smoke and therefore should not be exposed to second-hand smoke. Thank you for your share.

December 11, 2009 - 7:07am
HERWriter Guide

Hi Lynette - These results would come as no surprise to those who spend any time around lung cancer patients and survivors. Just yesterday I was with a 35-year-old man who developed lung cancer at age 30, and spent two years in treatment. He's never smoked, but was exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke from his parents and grandparents as a child. The studies are significant - finding an association between childhood exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and increased incidents of lung cancer in adulthood, as well as that MBL2 inactivity was associated with an heightened risk among those exposed to secondhand smoking in childhood. Thanks for this important information! Pat

December 10, 2009 - 5:14pm
EmpowHER Guest

Unbelievable!!!! 4 pages of nothing... and after digging finally this

--"Overall, findings showed no evidence that simple measures of secondhand smoke were associated with breast cancer risk."--

And at at the end... of course, more money needed.
--"From a public health point of view, these results (!?!?!?!?!what results?!?!?!?!) provide additional evidence for health risks from exposure to secondhand smoke,
but Reynolds suggested that more research is needed to better assess overall exposure patterns."--

That's free press! Funny? Yes!

December 10, 2009 - 3:20pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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