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Lung Cancer May Present Differently Based on Smoking Status

As lung cancer continues to rank among the most common forms of the disease in the United States, researchers are still unlocking its mysteries. One of the latest findings points to fairly significant differences in how non-small-cell lung cancer presents in nonsmokers versus smokers. The findings show marked differences in survival rates and associated conditions.

The research centered on a study of 1,411 Portuguese patients who had non-small-cell lung cancer. The findings indicated that nonsmokers were more likely than smokers to be women and to also have adenocarcinoma. Nonsmokers, however, were less likely than their smoking counterparts to also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and previous cancers, such as cancer of the larynx.

One of the most interesting findings involved survival rates. Nonsmokers, as it was found, tended to live about twice as long as their smoking counterparts after diagnosis. The average survival time was 51 months for nonsmokers versus 25 months for smokers. It was noted that many of the nonsmokers were diagnosed in advanced stages of the disease.

The findings, researchers say, are hoped to help improve diagnosis of this disease in smokers and nonsmokers alike. While lung cancer is much more common in smokers, the reality is nonsmokers can be affected. In the case of nonsmokers, researchers found work-related exposure to carcinogens, family history and previous cancers as possible links. About 18 percent of the nonsmoking patients also happened to have high blood pressure.

People who are at risk for lung cancer are urged to speak with their healthcare providers about screening options. Aside from tobacco use, risk factors do include environmental exposure and family history, among other factors. Early detection of lung cancer is critical for enabling effective treatment of this disease. Survival rates for this disease are low, but early intervention can improve the odds greatly.

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