Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in US women and is
responsible for as many deaths as breast cancer and all gynecological cancers
combined. Most lung cancer is caused by cigarette smoke. Despite all that
is known about the devastating effects of cigarettes, one quarter of women
in the United States continue to smoke. Women are targeted in tobacco advertising,
and teenage girls are often drawn to cigarette smoking under a variety of
Following the increase in smoking, the death rate from lung cancer in
US women rose 600% from 1930 to 1997. Women may be more susceptible than men
to the carcinogenic properties of cigarette smoke. In addition, differences
in the biology of lung cancer exist between the 2 sexes with higher levels
of DNA adduct formation, increased CYP1A1 expression,
decreased DNA repair capacity, and increased incidence of K-ras gene mutations in women. The novel estrogen receptor β has
also been detected in lung tumors and suggests that estrogen signaling may
have a biological role in tumorigenesis. Given these differences and given
the enormous toll this disease has on US women, undertaking sex-specific research
in lung cancer is crucial. Finally, disseminating information about this epidemic
may prevent a similar epidemic in other parts of the world where women are
just now becoming addicted to tobacco.
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