Family History Can Increase Lung Cancer Risk

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - Your family history puts you at risk for developing many diseases.

But a new study confirms what's already known about family history and the risk of lung cancer.

It's long been known that having a close family member with colon or breast cancer puts you at increased risk of developing the disease.

But this study finds having a close family member with lung cancer nearly doubles your risk of developing the disease.

Smoking is by far the biggest risk factor for lung cancer.

But this study finds people with a first degree relative, mother, father or sibling, who had lung cancer had a 95 percent higher risk of developing the disease themselves.

"You still can not discount the fact that smoking is the number one cause for people to develop lung cancer. That is the biggest risk factor, and although genetics play a role in it, we're not exactly sure the significance of the role," says Dr. Susan Huntsinger, UT Medical Center Oncologist.

Researchers found the association was even stronger for women.

Women with a first degree relative with lung cancer had nearly triple the risk, while men had about a 70 percent higher risk.

Additionally, people who had never smoked had a higher risk of developing lung cancer if they had a first degree relative with the disease.

"We know that certain families, or genetic backgrounds, are predisposed to developing carcinogens, or being able to make cancer cells from nicotine that is commonly found in tobacco. But it still doesn't discount the fact that smoking plays a major part," explains Dr. Huntsinger.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, More than 180,000 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, and nearly 170,000 Americans die.

"It's never too late to quit and studies do show that people that are able to quit, even if you quit after the age of 50 or 55, you can still substantially reduce your risk of the development of lung cancer," Huntsinger says.

Currently, there are no screening guidelines in place for someone with a family history of lung cancer.

If you have a family history of lung cancer, you are more susceptible to first and second hand smoke.

Avoid all exposure to tobacco.

And if you're a smoker, by all means... Quit.

If you have a family history of lung cancer, let your doctor know, you may be considered at high risk.


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