Why is Lung Cancer being diagnosed more in women than in men?

Going beyond the established guidelines of diagnosis, recent studies confirm that estrogen and an untreated infection with the Human Papiloma virus increase the risk of lung cancer in women. Yet, and just as with heart disease, there is typically no gender differences considered when diagnosing and treating women with the illness.

Here is a list of recently published findings that can shed a light on women and lung cancer:
  • While statistics show that lung cancer diagnosis is decreasing in men, lung cancer is increasing in young women.  Almost half of all lung cancer cases in young adults are women. Statistics show that diagnosis in older women has maintained in the past year.    
  • Lung cancer is typically different in men (squamous cell lung cancer) than in women (adenocarcinoma)-- ; and therefore, the symptoms vary significantly.  Because of the differences in types of lung cancer and its location in the body, men will show the typical symptoms:  a persistent cough, or coughing up blood; while women are more likely to experience fatigue, shortness of breath and/or chest and back pain.  
  • 20% of women who develop lung cancer have NEVER smoked, and the diagnosis is growing, especially in young women.   
  • Women are more susceptible to carcinogens in cigarettes than men.
  • Estrogen plays a role in either preventing or increasing its role in lung cancer.  On the one hand, recent research suggests that hormone replacement therapy might exacerbate a lung cancer condition if diagnosed after menopause; whereas other forms of estrogen --birth control and hormone replacement therapy-- might reduce the risks of developing lung cancer if prescribed before menopause. 
  • There is a possibility that HPV is correlated to some cases of lung cancer in women.  Research shows that at least 15% of women diagnosed with the condition contained HPV's DNA in the cancer cells. 
More research is currently taking place to determine both the roles of estrogen and HPV in lung cancer in women.  In the meantime, the important thing here is to stay informed!  Additional statistics of lung cancer are found below! 


About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:
The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.

The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.


Summary & Design prepared by Carolyn Northrup with information from the following sources:
American Lung Association
American Cancer Society 


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