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Lung Cancer Differences between Women and Men Abound

by Jennifer Wider, MD

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 10, 2005) - The death of longtime ABC News anchor Peter Jennings and the acknowledgement of actress Dana Reeve, widow of "Superman" Christopher Reeve, that she has lung cancer presents an opportunity to remind both women and men that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of both women and men.  It is also important to note the differences between women and men in lung cancer, according to the Society for Women's Health Research.

"The tragic death of Peter Jennings and the news that Dana Reeve is battling lung cancer should be a sobering reminder to everyone that lung cancer kills more women and men than any other single cancer," Sherry Marts, vice president of scientific affairs for the Society for Women's Health Research, said.  "Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, but as in Reeve's case smoking is not always the culprit.

"Nonsmoking women are more likely than nonsmoking men to develop lung cancer.  Environmental factors other than smoke play a role in the development of lung cancer in nonsmoking women.  The small amount of research available suggests that, when exposed to an environmental carcinogen, nonsmoking women are more susceptible to DNA damage than nonsmoking men.  We clearly need more research into these differences so that we can reduce the cancer rate and someday find a cure."

The Society for Women's Health Research is the nation's only non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health of all women through research, education and advocacy. Based in Washington, D.C., the Society encourages the study of biological sex differences between women and men that affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.  The Society is at the forefront of encouraging expanded research on lung cancer, which develops differently in women and men.  Current research is insufficient to understand the extent and nature of those differences or apply them to improved care for all patients.

A 2003 Society sponsored national meeting identified important sex differences in the genetics and basic biology of lung cancer; described sex differences in response to environmental and chemical toxins that can lead to lung cancer; and distinguished sex differences in smoking-related behaviors and the implication of those differences for prevention and treatment of lung cancer.  A report on the meeting, "Sex Differences in Lung Cancer: From Genes to Behavior," is available by clicking here.

A June 2005 public opinion survey commissioned by the Society showed that breast cancer is the disease that women most fear, despite the fact that lung cancer kills more women.  More information on the survey is available by clicking here.

The Society for Women's Health Research is the nation's only not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is to improve the health of women through research. Founded in 1990, the Society brought to national attention the need for the appropriate inclusion of women in major medical research studies and the resulting need for more information about conditions affecting women. The Society advocates increased funding for research on women's health, encourages the study of sex differences that may affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, and promotes the inclusion of women in medical research studies. Dr. Donnica Moore has been a member of the Society since 1990 and is a past member of its Board of Directors.

Created: 11/27/2005  -  Jennifer Wider, M.D.

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