Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found new evidence that suggests that women and men with similar smoking histories have the same risk of developing lung cancer. The large-scale analysis of more than 85,000 men and women shows that the nation’s top cancer killer strikes male and female smokers at similar rates – a finding that contrasts with the popular belief that women are more susceptible to the disease. The research appears in the June 2 issue of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
“Our data indicate that women are not at an excess risk of lung cancer compared to men, given similar smoking levels and smoking histories,” said Assistant Professor of Medicine Diane Feskanich.
An estimated 46.2 million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigarette smoking is responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, and lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer deaths among U.S. women and men.
The BWH and Harvard Medical School research team analyzed rates of lung cancer and compared them within several categories, including the number of cigarettes smoked per day, years of smoking, and age at start of smoking. Their report found that the overall risk of lung cancer did not differ by gender, contrary to earlier research.
“Arguing that female smokers are at an increased risk of lung cancer is losing validity and thus studies aimed to examine biological differences may be less warranted,” noted Feskanich. “Instead, resources should be heavily invested in programs and projects that aim to reduce smoking across the board, especially in young people where tobacco use is on the rise.”