Women's susceptibility to tobacco carcinogens and survival after diagnosis of lung cancer

JAMA. 2006 Jul 12;296(2):180-4. doi: 10.1001/jama.296.2.180.


Context: It has been hypothesized that women are more susceptible to tobacco carcinogens than men, but after diagnosis of lung cancer, they have better survival rates than men.

Objective: To add to the evidence on the lung cancer risk of women who smoke and their survival after diagnosis of lung cancer, conditional on other prognostic indicators and compared with men of the same age who smoke.

Design, setting, and participants: Nonexperimental, etiologic study with prospective collection of data based on baseline computed tomographic screening for lung cancer and follow-up of diagnosed cases of lung cancer in North America in 1993-2005. A total of 7498 women and 9427 men were screened, all of whom were asymptomatic, aged at least 40 years, and had a history of cigarette smoking.

Main outcome measures: Comparing women with men, the prevalence odds ratio (OR) for screen-detectable lung cancer (conditional on age and smoking history) and the hazard ratio of fatal outcome of lung cancer (conditional on smoking history, disease stage, tumor cell type, and resection).

Results: Lung cancer was diagnosed in 156 women and 113 men (rates of 2.1% and 1.2%, respectively). The prevalence OR comparing women with men was 1.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5-2.5). The hazard ratio of fatal outcome of lung cancer comparing women with men was 0.48 (95% CI, 0.25-0.89).

Conclusion: Women appear to have increased susceptibility to tobacco carcinogens but have a lower rate of fatal outcome of lung cancer compared with men.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Survival Rate