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Much Lung Cancer Disparity Appears to Be Due to Smoking

About half of lung cancer risk inequality due to differences in education may be explained by smoking

MONDAY, Mar. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking appeared to explain much -- but not all -- of the inequality in lung cancer risk attributable to differences in education in a large sample of Europeans, according to research published in the Mar. 4 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Gwenn Menvielle, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed data from 391,251 individuals in 10 countries throughout Europe, who self-reported their smoking history. Over a mean 8.4 years of follow-up, 1,631 participants were diagnosed with lung cancer.

Lung cancer risk rose as educational level fell, the researchers report. Although inequalities in cancer risk dropped after adjustment for smoking, they remained statistically significant. As a result, smoking explains roughly half of the inequality in lung cancer risk related to lower education, the authors write.

"Menvielle et al. are almost certainly correct that some fraction of the socioeconomic differences in lung cancer are due to factors other than smoking," writes Michael J. Thun, M.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, in an accompanying editorial. "They are also correct that in the near term and for the foreseeable future, the most effective approach to reducing both the socioeconomic disparities and the overall burden of lung cancer is to implement measures that we already know are effective in reducing tobacco use."

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