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Lung Cancer in Smokers, Nonsmokers May Be a Different Disease
Date:11/9/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 8 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that lung cancer in people who have never smoked may be a different disease than it is in smokers.

Scientists compared the genetic characteristics of lung cancer tumors in 30 people who never smoked to tumors in 53 smokers or former smokers.

The tumors of people who had never smoked had twice as many DNA abnormalities as people who were current or former smokers, said study author Kelsie Thu, a doctoral candidate at the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre in Vancouver.

"This is suggesting there might be something different going on with tumors in never-smokers," Thu said. "If we find out lung cancer in never-smokers is a different disease and we can identify what those differences are, maybe we can design specific therapies that target the genetic alterations in never-smokers and improve the prognosis."

The study was to be presented Monday at the American Association of Cancer Research's annual conference, in Philadelphia.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for men and woman, according to the American Cancer Society. Lung cancer will kill an estimated 157,000 Americans this year.

But it's not just smokers who get it -- lung cancer is the seventh-leading cause of cancer deaths among people who have never smoked, Thu said. Dana Reeve, wife of the late Christopher Reeve, died in 2006 at age 44 from lung cancer. She had never smoked.

Prior research has hinted that lung cancer tumors in never-smokers is different than the tumors in smokers. Compared to former and current smokers with lung cancer, never-smokers with lung cancer tend to be diagnosed younger, are more likely to be women and are more likely to have adenocarcinomas, the most common type of cancer. All of the lung cancer patients in the study had adenocarcinoma.

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