Chinese Medical Journal Article Reveals Gender-Based Differences in Lung Cancer Risk Among Non-Smokers

BEIJING, Jan. 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Lung cancer is the leading contributor to cancer-related deaths worldwide. While commonly observed among smokers, this disease also affects non-smokers, especially in Asia. Interestingly, the risk of this disease is found to differ significantly among non-smoker males and females, but we are yet to understand why this is so. So, a team of researchers from China published a multicenter, population-based cancer screening study under the China National Lung Cancer Screening (NLCS) Program, in the Chinese Medical Journal on June 5, 2022.

The team, led by Dr. Jie He and Dr. Ni Li from the National Cancer Center at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, used data from 796,283 non-smokers (who were participants of the NLCS program), spread across different cities and provinces in China between 2013 and 2018. They collected demographic data and information on the participants’ lifestyle, family history, and comorbidities through a questionnaire, then conducted clinical follow-ups to determine the incidence of lung cancers. Using statistical and regression analyses, they determined which factors significantly contributed to cancer outcomes in the male and female groups. The main goal of this study, Dr. Li tells us, was “to improve the existing screening strategy and strive for due health benefits for non-smokers.”

After an average follow-up period of 4.8 years, 3,351 participants from the cohort were diagnosed with lung cancer. Interestingly, they observed that males displayed a higher risk of developing lung cancer than their female counterparts. However, the known risk factors could not adequately explain this discrepancy, with patient demographics and air pollution having only a limited influence. Gender-based differences in the incidence of cancer subtypes were also noted, with a higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma observed among male and female participants, respectively. While factors such as lifestyle, comorbidities, and family history could explain 47% of the excess risk of adenocarcinoma in women, the inverse was not observed, with these factors explaining just 4% of the excess risk of squamous cell carcinoma in men.

These findings have important implications, demonstrating that in China, existing risk factors significantly influence cancer risk in women who are non-smokers; however, further research is required to identify the factors influencing excess cancer risk in men from the same cohort. Dr. He believes that exploring the differences in molecular genetics and biomarkers between these groups, could help explain this gender-based disparity. He concludes by reiterating the importance of such research. “Improving the screening strategy and favoring the non-smoking population during screening would help to further control the risk of lung cancers and reduce the disease burden in the non-smoking population.

Title of original paper: Sex disparity of lung cancer risk in non-smokers: a multicenter population-based prospective study based on China National Lung Cancer Screening Program
Journal: Chinese Medical Journal

Peifang Wei

SOURCE Chinese Medical Journal