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Lung Cancer in Lifelong Non-Smokers Found to Be 'Rare'

Death rates in this group higher in men than women; incidence in United States doesn't seem to be rising

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Among people who have never smoked, the death rate from lung cancer is higher in men than women, but the risk of the disease doesn't appear to have increased over time in this group, according to research published online Sept. 9 in PLoS Medicine.

Michael J. Thun, M.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data from a variety of sources, including 13 large cohort studies. They also assessed data on women from 22 cancer registries and 10 countries, choosing times and locations in which smoking prevalence in women was low.

The investigators found that, among non-smokers, lung cancer death rates are higher in men than women, with a difference in mortality that increases with age. They also report that African-Americans and Asians living in Korea and Japan -- but not in the United States -- had higher mortality rates from the disease than people of European descent. Focusing on individuals between the ages of 40 and 69, the investigators found that rates of lung cancer in American non-smokers don't appear to have changed since the 1930s.

"The incidence of lung cancer among lifelong non-smokers falls within the National Cancer Institute's definition of a 'rare' cancer (fewer than 40,000 cases per year, age-standardized incidence rate less than 15 per 100,000). The incidence rate approximates that of brain cancer (plus other nervous system cancers) in the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results registries for individuals of European descent under age 70 years," the authors write.

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