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Nonsmoker Lung Cancer

March 7, 2007

Non-smoking women get lung cancer at a higher rate than non-smoking men.


Gender differences in non-smoker lung cancer. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Women who have never smoked are much more likely to get lung cancer than male non-smokers. Stanford University medical oncologist Heather Wakelee and her colleagues discovered this when they analyzed several long-term health studies, involving over a million people in the U.S. and Sweden. She says that nonsmokers also make up a higher percentage of female lung cancer patients than male.

HEATHER WAKELEE (Stanford University):
It ends up being about 19 percent of all lung cancer in women is in women who never smoked. And about 8 percent of lung cancer in men is in men who have never smoked.

As to why, she says it’s possible that because smoking is more common in men, female nonsmokers may be more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke from their spouses. But Wakelee says it will take much more research to tease out all the possible risk factors. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.