While smoking is the so-called smoking gun underlying many cases of lung cancer, it’s not the only risk factor for lung cancer. Several lung diseases can also up a person’s risk for lung cancer. New research from a French group called the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that chronic bronchitis and emphysema both increase the risk of future development of lung cancer. In fact, the odds of developing lung cancer in those with bronchitis was 1.3 times higher and emphysema was 1.5 times higher than the odds of developing lung cancer in those who didn’t have bronchitis or emphysema.
The relationship between lung diseases and lung cancer holds true, according to this new research, even after accounting for the role of smoking in lung cancer risk. This International Agency for Research on Cancer study came to this conclusion after pooling data from nearly 28,000 people both with and without lung cancer in Europe and Canada.
In addition to bronchitis and emphysema paving the way to future lung cancer, the researchers also noted a connection between pneumonia in the previous two years before lung cancer diagnosis (although there was no connection to lung cancer with pneumonia infections older than two years). Those who were hit with a triple whammy of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and a recent case of pneumonia were particularly at risk for lung cancer.
The best way to avoid lung cancer continues to be this: don’t smoke and if you do, then quit! In addition, keep your lungs healthy by avoiding second-hand smoke, testing your home for radon, avoiding carcinogen exposure (such as at work), eating a healthy diet, exercising, and asking your doctor if the pneumococcal vaccine is appropriate for you.
Stephen C. Vogt, Pharm.D.
President and CEO
BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy
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Denholm R, Schüz J, Straif K, et al. Is previous respiratory disease a risk factor for lung cancer? Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2014 [online publication] DOI: 10.1164/rccm.201402-0338OC