Researchers may have discovered why lung cancer affects some smokers and not others.
“A history of smoking has always been thought of as a predictor of lung cancer, but it is actually not very accurate,” said Jian-Min Yuan, Ph.D., M.D., associate professor of public health at the University of Minnesota. “Smoking absolutely increases your risk, but why it does so in some people but not others is a big question.”
Yuan and his team have found that a urine test may let a smoker know if they are at risk for lung cancer. They said that the presence of the metabolite NNAL in a smoker’s urine may show just how much they are at risk for cancer.
Data was collected from 18,244 men enrolled in the Shanghai Cohort Study and 63,257 men and women from the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Researchers also interviewed people in-person about their smoking and dietary lifestyle, as well as collected blood and urine samples from over 50,000 patients.
Over a ten-year period, researchers evaluated the impact of NNAL by analyzing the data they had collected. They divided the levels of NNAL into three groups. Patients in the mid-range level of NNAL were 43 percent more likely to develop lung cancer, while those with the highest levels more than doubled their risk for developing lung cancer.
“Smoking leads to lung cancer, but there are about 60 possible carcinogens in tobacco smoke, and the more accurately we can identify the culprit, the better we will become at predicting risk,” said Yuan.
This data was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting 2009.