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Family History a Risk Factor for Lung Cancer
by: Robert Preidt

Current and former smokers who have a strong family history of lung cancer should take a lung function test and undergo screening with spiral computed tomography, says an article in the current issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

This screening -- meant to detect lung cancer in the early stages -- is especially important for people with a relative diagnosed with lung cancer at a young age (around 50), the study said.

People with a family history of lung cancer have about a twofold to threefold increased risk of developing lung cancer, study author Ann G. Schwartz, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, said in a prepared statement.

The article noted that smoking is linked to 85 percent to 95 percent of all lung cancers. While there's been a dramatic decrease in U.S. lung cancer rates over the previous two decades, an estimated 49 million current and 46 million former smokers in the United States remain at risk for the disease.

More needs to be done to identify people at high risk for lung cancer, Schwartz said.

"Because cigarette smoking is such an overwhelming risk factor and preventable, the importance of family history and genetic susceptibility to lung cancer risk has been overlooked," she said in the prepared statement.

"While debate continues about the efficacy of spiral computed tomography screening for lung cancer in a broad population of smokers, the ability to focus screening efforts in a truly high-risk subpopulation would clearly be of benefit now," she noted.

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