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COPD Linked to Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers

According to a recent study, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can lead to a heightened risk of lung cancer even in people who have never smoked.

Respiratory conditions that constrict airways, such as bronchitis and emphysema, fall under the category of COPD, of which smoking is a main risk factor. But according to a study in the journal Thorax, nearly 40% of people who develop COPD have never smoked. To delve further into this matter, researchers looked at data from the National Sample Cohort study performed by the National Health Insurance Service of nearly 340,000 men and women in Korea with no history of lung cancer.

The subjects were monitored for seven years, during which 1,834 participants developed lung cancer – including 1,544 who did not have COPD. Among those who smoked, those without COPD were twice as likely to develop cancer. Those with COPD were six times as like to do so.

In summation, the study found that COPD on its own is a risk factor in developing lung cancer – with or without cigarettes.

"Given that poor lung function in COPD is often a barrier to optimal lung cancer treatment due to increased risk of treatment related morbidities,” the researchers wrote, “our study suggests that early detection of lung cancer in COPD patients may reduce the risk of treatment complications.

"Future studies should evaluate whether COPD patients are candidates for lung cancer screening, irrespective of smoking status.”

For more information, read the story as well as the study.