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New research in nonsmokers who get lung cancer has found that men seem to die from the disease more than women.  It is unclear clear why this happens.

Researchers looked at data from a number of sources to find out how lung cancer affects men and women in different cultures, and from different time periods.  Results were pooled on lung cancer rates and deaths from 13 large scale clinical trials representing approx. 2 million people around the world.  Data for women from 22 cancer registries and 10 countries in places where few women smoked was also included in the analysis.  All the participants were self-described nonsmokers.

The main findings of the research were as follows:

• Men died more from lung cancer than did women in all age and racial groups studied.
• Women and men 40 years old and older had similar rates of lung cancer, when the figures were standardised.
• African-Americans and Asians living in Korea and Japan had higher death rates from lung cancer than did people of European extraction.
• There were no time trends seen when lung cancer rates and death rates were compared among U.S. women ages 40 to 69 during the 1930s to nonsmoking women of today's population.
• Women in East Asia had higher and more variable lung cancer rates than did women in other areas of the world where women don't smoke very much.

In the US approx. 10% to 15% of all lung cancer deaths are caused by something other than smoking cigarettes. The American Cancer Society also stated that nearly 1.5 million people die from lung cancer every year around the world due to tobacco smoking.

The background information published with the study results noted that tumors in the lungs of people who are not smokers have "different molecular profiles and respond better to targeted therapies" than do tumours in smokers lungs.  Such differences can be observed in patient responses to TKI therapies such as Tarceva.

The analyses support claims that the death rate from lung
cancer among never-smokers is higher in men than in women, and in
African Americans and Asians residing in Asia than in individuals of
European descent, but contradict assertions that risk is increasing or
that women have a higher incidence rate than men.

Overall, more studies will be needed, since these findings contradict with earlier research suggesting that the risk of lung cancer in nonsmoking women and men has increased and that nonsmoking women get lung cancer more than men do.


PLOS Medicine
American Cancer Society

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