Lung cancer accounted for more deaths than breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer in 2005. What if, a simple urine test could detect smokers at highest risk for developing lung cancer?
While it may be years before such a test is available, if it works, urine-screening may give added motivation to some smokers that have not been able to kick the habit, said study author Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of preventable deaths in the U.S., claiming the lives of more than 400,000 people each year. While lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world, and the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
Cigarette smoking causes approximately 90% of lung cancer cases.
Doctors know that smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or a family history of lung cancer are at greater risk, said Dr. Norman Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer with the American Lung Association. But, there is no way to determine which smokers are most likely to develop lung cancer.
For the new study, researchers looked at findings from two earlier studies.
One study involved 18,244 men enrolled in the Shanghai Cohort Study. The other study included 63,257 men and women enrolled in the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Researchers conducted in-person interviews to assess levels of cigarette smoking, dietary habits and various other lifestyle factors. They also collected blood and urine samples from more than 50,000 patients.
For the latest study, researchers focused on 246 smokers who developed lung cancer and 245 smokers who did not develop lung cancer. Researchers tried to determine if a nicotine byproduct called NNAL could predict cases of lung cancer.
They discovered smokers with the highest levels of NNAL and cotinine, another nicotine byproduct, were 8 times more likely to develop lung cancer compared to smokers with the lowest concentrations of these two compounds.
“Smoking leads to lung cancer, but there are 60 possible carcinogens in tobacco smoke. The more accurately we can identify the cause, the better we will become at predicting risk,” said Yuan.
Outside of kicking the habit – no intervention currently exists to reduce a smoker’s chance of developing lung cancer.
Within two to five years scientists hope to perfect the test which is expected to cost from $100 to $120.
A screen test would allow doctors to determine which smokers should undergo more advanced screening, Edelman said. But, it’s difficult if not impossible to detect lung cancer in the early stages as of now.
The research findings were presented this weekend at the American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado. #