"Lung cancer appears to be a different disease in women," says the paper's lead author Jyoti Patel, M.D., an oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and an instructor of medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University. Differences include female smokers' increased predisposition to lung cancer and longer survival rates as compared to men. Female smokers are also more likely than men to develop adenocarcinoma, the most common form of lung cancer. In addition, women who have never smoked are more likely to develop lung cancer than men who have never smoked.
Mounting evidence suggests that these differences could be due, in part, to estrogen signaling. Genetic, metabolic and hormonal factors also play a role in the way women react to carcinogens and lung cancer. However, women's longer survival periods once they have lung cancer cannot be accounted for solely by a longer life expectancy or an imbalance of other prognostic factors, says Dr. Patel.
"As researchers, we need to do our part to best address what has become an epidemic in American women," says Dr. Patel. "From 1990 to 2003, there was a 60 percent increase in the number of new cases of lung cancer in American women, while the number of men diagnosed with lung cancer remained stable. This is a dramatic increase and is clearly in excess of normal expectancy."
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and will cause more deaths in American women this year than breast cancer and all gynecological cancers combined. In 2003, an estimated 80,100 American women were diagnosed with lung cancer, and 68,800 died from their disease. "The majority of lung
Contact: Amanda Widtfeldt
Northwestern Memorial Hospital