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African Americans Have Unique Risk for Lung Cancer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease E-mail
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Scientists have developed a risk prediction assessment for lung cancer specifically for African Americans that suggests a greater risk from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a report published in the September issue of Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Etzel and colleagues analyzed data from 491 African Americans with lung cancer and 497 African Americans without lung cancer to identify risk factors for the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They then compared these risk factors with a previously established risk prediction model for whites.

What was unique to African Americans was the risk associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. African American men with a prior history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease had a more than sixfold increased risk of lung cancer, similar to that seen with smoking. This is approximately two-fold higher than the risk typically seen from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among whites.

“The one size fits all risk prediction clearly does not work,” said Carol Etzel, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

As with whites, smoking was a significant risk factor for lung cancer. Current smokers had a more than sixfold increased risk of lung cancer, and former smokers had a more than threefold increased risk for lung cancer. This decreased risk was confined to those who had quit smoking more than ten years prior to diagnosis; these patients had a 58 percent decreased risk for lung cancer compared with patients who had quit within the previous ten years.

Researchers also found that hay fever, previously shown to be protective among whites, was also protective among African Americans. Specifically, African Americans with hay fever were 44 percent less likely to develop lung cancer, a rate that had been previously seen among whites.

African American males have a higher risk of lung cancer incidence at 110.6 per 100,000 compared with 81 per 100,000 among white males. Mortality is also higher among African American men at 95.8 per 100,000 compared with 72.6 among whites. Lung cancer incidence and mortality rates among women are comparable.

Etzel said the risk prediction model detailed in Cancer Prevention Research is part of an ongoing project to establish risk models among different ethnic groups; a model for Hispanics is currently under development.

“What we hope is that a doctor can use these models to encourage their patients to take steps to prevent lung cancer. Even if they are never smokers, they can be at risk,” said Etzel.

About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women. It claims more lives each year than colon cancer, prostate cancer, lymph and breast cancers combined.

Yet most lung cancer deaths could be prevented. That's because smoking accounts for nearly 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Your risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and number of cigarettes you smoke. If you quit smoking, even after smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancerr. Protecting yourself from other risk factors for lung cancer, such as exposure to asbestos, radon and secondhand smoke, also decreases your risk.

About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease in which the lungs are damaged, making it hard to breathe. In COPD, the airways—the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs—are partly obstructed, making it difficult to get air in and out.

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Breathing in other kinds of lung irritants, like pollution, dust, or chemicals, over a long period of time may also cause or contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the airways and air sacs lose their shape and lose their elasticity. As a result less air gets in and less air goes out. Additionally because cells in the airways make more mucus (sputum) than usual, airways get clogged and also limit the air exchanged.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Also causes the walls of the airways become thick and inflamed (swollen) or even destroyed which can further exasperate the disease. 

 
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