We really don’t need to see any more stories in the media about smoking’s irrefutable link to lung cancer. It is the number one risk factor for that particular disease — which is the most fatal of any cancer. But, as always, there are multiple risk factors for the problems that affect our health — especially the serious ones. Here we look at a risk factor that doesn’t get much play in the media when it comes to its link to lung cancer, but one that doubles your risk of getting it.
That would be having a close relative who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. A new study has put a firm mark on how dangerous genetics are for us in our body’s fight against cellular disruptions that lead to tumors. Researchers found that anyone whose mother, father, or sibling had lung cancer also had a 95% greater risk of developing the disease as well.
Since about 180,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, thus replacing the same number of individuals who die from the disease each year, this is another important link that people need to be aware of.
Genetics are about as hidden a threat as one can be. And the scope of genetics’ relationship to lung cancer is important for all people, doctors and patients alike, to realize. It becomes even more critical for people who smoke: should their immediate relatives have been diagnosed with lung cancer, their risk for getting the fatal disease couldn’t get any higher.
Not only do the cigarettes they smoke contain cancer- causing chemicals, but they also have a genetic susceptibility to those carcinogens as well. And that is a potentially lethal combination.
The study tracked over 100,000 adults in Japan for as long as 13 years. During that time, just below 800 cases of lung cancer had developed. Having an immediate family member with lung cancer doubled the risk of lung cancer, and for women it nearly tripled the risk. Unfortunately, even nonsmokers had a greater risk of lung cancer if a close relative had it. Overall, family history was most strongly linked to squamous cell carcinoma, which is a particular kind of lung cancer.
The “why” part isn’t clear, especially for nonsmokers. But in any event, make sure your doctor has a complete medical history not only for you, but also for all your family members as well. The value of this newfound knowledge is that anyone who has a genetic predisposition to lung cancer should get regularly screened for any developing tumors. And it underscores the importance of anyone in this position avoiding cigarettes and secondhand smoke as best they can.