Ethnic and racial differences in the smoking-related risk of lung cancer

N Engl J Med. 2006 Jan 26;354(4):333-42. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa033250.


Background: There is remarkable variation in the incidence of lung cancer among ethnic and racial groups in the United States.

Methods: We investigated differences in the risk of lung cancer associated with cigarette smoking among 183,813 African-American, Japanese-American, Latino, Native Hawaiian, and white men and women in the Multiethnic Cohort Study. Our analysis included 1979 cases of incident lung cancer identified prospectively over an eight-year period, between baseline (1993 through 1996) and 2001.

Results: The risk of lung cancer among ethnic and racial groups was modified by the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Among participants who smoked no more than 30 cigarettes per day, African Americans and Native Hawaiians had significantly greater risks of lung cancer than did the other groups. Among those who smoked no more than 10 and those who smoked 11 to 20 cigarettes per day, relative risks ranged from 0.21 to 0.39 (P<0.001) among Japanese Americans and Latinos and from 0.45 to 0.57 (P<0.001) among whites, as compared with African Americans. However, at levels exceeding 30 cigarettes per day, these differences were not significant. Differences in risk associated with smoking were observed among both men and women and for all histologic types of lung cancer.

Conclusions: Among cigarette smokers, African Americans and Native Hawaiians are more susceptible to lung cancer than whites, Japanese Americans, and Latinos.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Carcinoma / ethnology*
  • Carcinoma / etiology
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lung Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Risk
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / ethnology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People