Family History Shown to Be an Important Predictor of Lung Cancer

An eye-opening, 13-year Japanese study has offered some rather demoralizing information to people with a history of lung cancer in their families. If someone in your immediate family has suffered from the disease, your risk of acquiring it rises significantly–regardless of whether you’re a smoker or not.

The findings were reported in the October edition of the journal Chest, published by the American College of Chest Physicians. The study tracked more than 100,000 Japanese between the ages of 40 and 69 and showed that an individual’s smoking habits may not have as great an effect on mitigating the risk of lung cancer as previously thought.

According the study’s results, “A family history of lung cancer in a first-degree relative was associated with a significantly increased risk of lung cancer…. The association was stronger in women than in men.” The report added that “with regard to smoking status, the effect of a family history on lung cancer risk was notably higher in never-smokers than in current smokers.”

Overall, researchers found that having a sibling or parent with lung cancer nearly doubles the likelihood that an individual will also have it; the risk is actually higher for those who have a sibling with lung cancer than those who have a parent who suffers from the disease. The study only pertains to lung cancer and not other forms of the disease.

While smoking habits remain by far the most significant factor in the incidence of lung cancer, the study furthers the theory that “hereditary predisposition” also plays a noteworthy role. The study is quick to point out that “the genetic characteristics influencing lung cancer susceptibility have not been precisely clarified.” Yet, the authors also claim that “evidence exists that lung cancer aggregates in families and findings of a chromosomal region linked to lung cancer susceptibility support a genetic component to risk.” If there is indeed a genetic component, this may have significant effects on the basic theories and methods of lung-cancer research.

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