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Women More Likely to Develop Lung Cancer From Smoking

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Women Are More Likely to Develop Lung Cancer From Smoking Sondem/fotolia

Do you know which cancer that kills the most women? It isn’t breast cancer. In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the number one cause of cancer deaths in women.(5)

Lung cancer is coming to be known a women’s disease.(6)

Women were diagnosed with lung cancer at an alarming rate, with a 94-percent increase in lung cancer diagnoses from 1977 to 2013. Men’s lung cancer rate had dropped 32 percent in the same time period.(5)

The rate for women peaked in 1998 and has since declined.

The American Lung Cancer Association says that currently, "more men are diagnosed with lung cancer each year, but more women live with the disease."

An estimated 158,080 Americans are likely to die of lung cancer this year, and there seems to be a gender bias in lung cancer susceptibility.(5)

Smoking, especially, may put women at a higher risk of lung cancer than it does men.(1)

Among lung cancer patients, women’s DNA repair capacity appeared to be lower than men’s based on a meta-study. Researchers do not know exactly what is happening biologically, but they have tried to study the reasons for it at the cellular level.

When organic matter containing known and probable human carcinogens is burned, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are produced. Humans are exposed to PAHs via inhalation, ingestion or topical contact.(2)

PAHs can occur inside or outside, are present in the charbroiled meat you grill on Saturdays and in cigarette, pipe and cigar smoke.

A meta-analysis of several studies in 2010 showed “higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon DNA adducts were observed in female lung cancer patients compared with their male counterparts, even though the level of tobacco carcinogens was lower among women than among men.”(1)

A DNA adduct is a segment of DNA that binds to a cancer-causing chemical. PAH-DNA adducts are formed as a result of exposure to carcinogens, and are biomarkers of that exposure.(2)

So when both men and women smoke cigarettes, it appears that even if women are exposed to fewer actual carcinogens, women have shown more biomarkers of exposure to PAHs. Could that be why women’s lung cancer rates have risen?(1)

Evidence showing a link between estrogen and lung cancer has been inconclusive, but sex hormones may influence susceptibility.(1)

While the level of PAHs in e-cigarettes is virtually zero, e-cigarette smoke contains the toxic chemical chromium which is absent in regular cigarettes, as well as nickel at four times the amount found in tobacco cigarettes.(3)

The American Lung Association asserts that e-cigarettes are a tobacco product. They should not be considered a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

Reviewed December 1, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

1) Kiyohara, C. and Ohno, Y. Sex differences in lung cancer susceptibility: a review. NIH.gov. Retrieved November 16, 2016.

2) Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Exposure and DNA Adduct Semi-Quantitation in Archived Human tissues.

3) Perkins, Robert. E-cigarette smoke found to contain toxic metals. Retrieved November 16, 2016.

4) E-cigarettes and Lung Health. lung.org. Retrieved November 16, 2016.

5) Lung Cancer Fact Sheetlung.org. Retrieved November 16, 2016.

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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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