Thursday, May 7, 2020

Less smoking may have aided drop in disease

Higher percentage of women now getting lung cancer, Time says, despite dip in mortality rates

Women now account for "disproportionately high number" of lung cancer diagnoses.

That's true despite overall mortality rates having "fallen significantly in recent decades" — and in spite of women traditionally having "smoked less than men and thus developed and died from lung cancer less often."

At least that's the conclusion of an article in Time magazine by Jamie Ducharme, a piece from the end of last year just sent to me by a friend for this blog.

Ducharme's story indicates that part of the reason for the overall dip in the disease, the most deadly form of cancer in the United States, is because medical advances have been occurring for decades, and because there have been major decreases in smoking.

But the "why" of the shift from "what was historically a men's disease" apparently is not apparent. 
Alice Berger, PhD.

"It's completely unknown right now," Time quotes Alice Berger, a Ph.D. who researches genetics and cancer at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

And Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, co-author of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, is also quoted as saying "smoking habits cannot totally explain the demographic shifts" even though his 2018 report "showed that "rates of long-cancer incidence actually rose over the past 20 years among women born around either 1950 or 1960."

Researchers have determined, in fact, that "the type of lung cancer most common among nonsmokers disproportionately affect women, and young women are more likely to have a gene mutation often found in the tumors of nonsmokers."

The mutation, not incidentally, does respond well to newer targeted therapies, Berger notes in the piece. 

She also repeats a theory that "quirks of female sex hormones or women's immune systems could be responsible" for the disproportion.

A lot more information on scientific research can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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