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Smoking Packs a Tougher Wallop for Women

Research suggests greater female susceptibility to carcinogens

MONDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Women may be more vulnerable than men to cancer-causing ingredients in cigarettes, according to a new study.

In an examination of data on 683 people with lung cancer who had been referred to a lung cancer center between 2000 and 2005, Swiss researchers found that female patients tended to be younger when they developed the disease, even though they tended to smoke significantly fewer cigarettes than men.

"Our findings suggest that women may have an increased susceptibility to tobacco carcinogens," wrote Dr. Martin Frueh and colleagues. The study was to be presented this week at the European Multidisciplinary Conference in Thoracic Oncology, in Lugano, Switzerland.

The results add to growing evidence that smoking poses greater health risks to women than men, according to the conference co-chair, Dr. Enriqueta Felip, of Vall d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, Spain.

"In the early 1900s, lung cancer was reported to be rare in women, but since the 1960s, it has progressively reached epidemic proportions, becoming the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States," Felip said in a news release from the European Society for Medical Oncology.

"Lung cancer is not only a man's disease, but women tend to be much more aware of other cancers, such as breast cancer," she noted. "Several case-control studies seem to suggest that women are more vulnerable to tobacco carcinogens than men."

Another study presented at the conference found that women tend to do better than men after surgery to remove lung tumors. The study of 640 patients found that median survival after surgery to remove non-small-cell lung cancer was 4.7 years for women and 2.1 years for men.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about women and smoking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: European Society for Medical Oncology, news release, May 3, 2009

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