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Women & Lung Cancer

While breast cancer is the most common cancer to occur in women, lung cancer is the leading cause of death due to cancer among women, claiming nearly 71,000 female lives in the United States each year. That accounts for more than one-fourth of all cancer deaths among women.

Just as for men, the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to not smoke, or if you are a smoker, quit. You can get help in quitting from the following resources:

  • Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
  • For the hearing impaired, call: 1-877-559-3816
  • The U.S. government’s web-based resources for going tobacco free: smokefree.gov

But lung cancer can also occur in non-smokers.

Researchers are finding that lung cancer in women is biologically different from lung cancer in men, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. There may be genetic and biologic differences that affect lung cancer development, including:

  • Genes that make women more vulnerable to harmful effects of tobacco smoke
  • Differences in how chemicals from tobacco are broken down in the body
  • Changes to genes that control cell growth, which can lead to cancer
  • Decreased ability to repair damaged DNA, which can promote cancer development
  • Hormones, such as estrogen, that could directly or indirectly affect cancer growth

In the early stages, there may be no symptoms. Later, symptoms may include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Spit streaked with blood
  • Chest pain
  • Recurring pneumonia or bronchitis

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