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Asthma Associated With Increased Lung Cancer Risk, Study Finds

— February 23, 2024

Studies reveal asthmatics have a higher chance than those without asthma of developing lung cancer. Women are especially at risk.

Recent research suggests that individuals with asthma, particularly women, may face a higher risk of developing lung cancer. The study, published in Medicine, utilized Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis to explore the potential causal relationship between asthma and lung cancer risk, especially concerning different subtypes and smoking status.

The study scrutinized data from 24 cohort studies involving over a million patients. Researchers conducted a thorough search across multiple databases, including PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library, focusing on articles published up to May 4, 2023.

Employing random-effects models allowed for the analysis aimed to discern associations between asthma and lung cancer risk across various patient demographics and histologic types. Results indicated a significant correlation between asthma and an increased risk of lung cancer across all patients.

Specifically, females with asthma demonstrated a heightened risk of developing lung cancer. However, the study did not find significant associations between asthma and specific lung cancer subtypes, such as lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD), lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC), or small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

Notably, the MR analysis revealed a rising causal link between asthma and lung cancer, particularly among smokers and individuals with LUSC. This suggests that asthma may serve as a potential risk factor for the development of certain lung cancer subtypes, especially in specific demographic and behavioral groups.

Asthma Associated With Increased Lung Cancer Risk, Study Finds
Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

Asthma and lung cancer, while distinct conditions, share certain risk factors and associations that highlight the issues of respiratory health. Understanding these commonalities is crucial for comprehensive disease management and prevention strategies.

  1. Smoking: Smoking stands out as the most significant risk factor for both asthma and lung cancer. Individuals who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke face elevated risks of developing asthma and various types of lung cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and small cell lung cancer.
  2. Environmental Exposures: Environmental factors, such as air pollution, occupational hazards, and exposure to allergens and irritants, can trigger asthma symptoms and contribute to the development of lung cancer. Prolonged exposure to pollutants like asbestos, radon, and certain chemicals increases the risk of lung cancer.
  3. Genetic Factors: Genetics are often one of the leading factors for asthma and lung cancer. Those who have a family history containing either condition may have a higher likelihood of developing asthma or lung cancer themselves.
  4. Chronic Inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the airways is a hallmark feature of asthma. Similarly, persistent inflammation in the lungs due to various factors, including smoking and exposure to carcinogens, can promote the development and progression of lung cancer.
  5. Age and Gender: While asthma can affect individuals of all ages, it often develops during childhood. On the other hand, lung cancer primarily affects older adults, with the risk increasing with age. Additionally, studies suggest variations in asthma prevalence and lung cancer incidence based on gender, with women exhibiting higher susceptibility to asthma and an increasing trend of lung cancer diagnoses among women.
  6. Medication Use: Certain medications used to manage asthma, such as corticosteroids, may influence lung cancer risk. However, the relationship between asthma medications and lung cancer requires further investigation to delineate potential associations accurately.
  7. Obesity: Obesity has emerged as a common risk factor for both asthma and lung cancer. Excess weight can exacerbate asthma symptoms and increase the risk of asthma-related complications. Moreover, obesity is associated with chronic inflammation and metabolic dysfunction, contributing to the development of lung cancer.
  8. Lifestyle Factors: Unhealthy lifestyle choices, including poor diet, lack of physical activity, and substance abuse, can exacerbate asthma symptoms and elevate the risk of lung cancer. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, can help mitigate these risks and promote overall respiratory health.

Looking ahead, researchers suggest further exploration of asthma’s impact on lung cancer risk, emphasizing the need to categorize participants based on asthma control levels. This division, particularly focusing on chronic inflammation as a potential cancer cause, could provide valuable insights into disease mechanisms. Additionally, the researchers advocate for employing lineage-tracking mouse models to elucidate the causal relationship between asthma and LUSC, offering potential avenues for future investigation.


Asthma Associated With Increased Lung Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Association of asthma and lung cancer risk: A pool of cohort studies and Mendelian randomization analysis

What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer?

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