Women's silent cancer risk

Lung cancer is the nation's leading cancer killer, primarily because it's tough to diagnose in its early stages. Now, research suggests that recognizing the cancer early is especially difficult in women.

When scientists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City tested 294 newly diagnosed lung cancer patients for a supposedly common tell-tale risk factor, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), they found the condition in 73% of men, but only about 50% of women.

Measured with a breath test, COPD may be a factor in deciding whether to check a patient for lung cancer; in the absence of COPD, doctors may not ask about other risk factors and could fail to screen a high-risk patient. Lead author Raghu Loganathan, MD, says people who test negative--and especially women--shouldn't be considered risk free. "Physicians should look at smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, and family history," he adds. Other risk factors include a history of exposure to radiation or asbestos, or simply being age 50 or older. Women at risk because of these factors should talk to their doctor about getting tested.


By Tanya Beers

Share this with your friends