A recent study found that women who smoke are twice as likely as men to get lung cancer, but less likely to die from the disease. The study was released in the July 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and was conducted by researchers at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York City.
“The findings highlight the need to educate young women that they are at higher risk of developing lung cancer, even when they’re smoking the same amount as men,” said the lead investigator Claudia Henschke, MD, PhD, in an interview from Medscape.com. The study followed 7,498 women and 9,427 men over age 40 who had a history of cigarette smoking but no signs of lung cancer at the beginning of the study.
Researchers are unsure as to why women are more likely to develop lung cancer, but less likely to die of the disease than men. One theory is that much like breast cancer, lung cancer may be tied to the level of estrogen in the body, according to Joan Schiller, MD, a lung cancer specialist, in an interview for WebMD. Schiller noted that studies have shown that women on estrogen therapy have a worse cancer survival rate. The American Cancer Society estimates that 73,000 women in the US will die of lung cancer this year.
A day after these study results were released, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced its plan to issue smoking ban recommendations in a policy report this September. The report will cite a study by the California Environmental Protection Agency, which finds secondhand smoke to be especially dangerous to women, according to the Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy Report. The WHO report will recommend complete smoking bans in public places, similar to bans currently in place in only a few countries, including Ireland.