Women 'more vulnerable to tobacco carcinogens than men'

In collaboration with the Press Association

A study at a Swiss treatment centre has found that women diagnosed with lung cancer tend to be younger than men.

The study's authors suggest that this might mean that women are more vulnerable than men to the cancer-causing effects of smoking.

However, Cancer Research UK pointed out that the study only looked at men and women from a single Swiss cancer centre, so it was difficult to generalise the results.

The study involved 683 lung cancer patients who were referred for treatment at a centre in St Gallen between 2000 and 2005.

The analysis was presented at the European Multidisciplinary Conference in Thoracic Oncology in Switzerland and revealed that women in the study tended to develop lung cancer at an earlier age than men, even though they tended to smoke less.

Dr Martin Frueh and his colleagues claimed that the findings suggest women may have an "increased susceptibility" to the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco.

The conference's co-chair, Dr Enriqueta Felip, from Val d'Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, noted that a number of previous studies have reported similar findings.

She noted: "In the early 1900s lung cancer was reported to be rare in women, but since the 1960s it has progressively reached epidemic proportions, becoming the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States."

Dr Felip added: "Lung cancer is not only a man's disease, but women tend to be much more aware of other cancers, such as breast cancer."

Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, said that people should be "wary" of jumping to conclusions about possible differences between men's and women's susceptibility to cancer.

He noted: "These scientists only studied patients referred to a single cancer centre in Switzerland and didn't look at biological differences between men's and women's lung cancers.

"Decades of research have shown that smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in both men and women, causing at least 12 types of cancer in addition to lung cancer," he continued.

"About 14,500 UK women die of lung cancer every year. Giving up smoking is the single most important thing anyone can do to reduce their risk of cancer."