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In a new study, they say they've found that smoke exposure leads to changes in how genes operate in female mice. This, in turn, appears to affect the body's processing of estrogen, which could contribute to lung cancer in non-smoking women as well as smokers.
"Previous work has suggested that estrogen may play a role in lung cancer, but no one has shown that smoke can actually accelerate the metabolism of estrogen within the lungs," said Margie Clapper, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, in a statement.
The research jibes with other findings that suggest women with lung cancer who are on hormone replacement therapy do worse than women who aren't, regardless of whether they smoked or not.
In the big picture, "if we can identify the earliest events that happen within the lungs when you begin to smoke, we might be able to use therapeutics to block them as well as lung cancer," Clapper said.
The findings were to be reported Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
-- Randy Dotinga
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SOURCE: Fox Chase Cancer Center, news release, April 19, 2010