Los Angeles Times Examines Lung Cancer’s Possible ‘Gender Gap’
Increasing evidence exists that women are more likely than men to contract lung cancer, but proof of this "gender gap" remains "elusive," the Los Angeles Times reports. This trend was first discussed in 1995, when a study found that female smokers were nearly twice as likely to get lung cancer compared to male smokers. The Times reports that now new evidence is emerging to support the conclusion that lung cancer hits women harder: "Female smokers appear to develop the disease earlier. They don't seem to need to smoke as much as men to get ill. And nonsmoking women are more likely than nonsmoking men to develop the disease." However, while many studies have given credence to a gender gap, they can "easily be confounded by factors researchers may fail to properly account for, such as secondhand smoke." John Wienke, director of the Laboratory for Epidemiology at UC-San Francisco, said, "Men and women have different occupations. Then you have the possibility that they smoke differently. I think the molecular approach [to research] is going to be the way that we'll really see if there is a difference" (Ready, Los Angeles Times, 3/26).
A second Times article examines how several lung cancer advocates are attempting to change both the general and scientific perception that lung cancer victims are "fools who willingly play Russian roulette with their health" by smoking. Advocates note, for example, that the National Cancer Institute's budget for breast cancer research is more than twice that for lung cancer, even though more women die of the latter. (More women contract breast cancer, but their survival rates are much higher than lung cancer patients). Many groups, such as Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support and Education say the general "lack of sympathy" for lung cancer victims is "unfair" because many were addicted to nicotine at an early age. Jill Siegfried, a cell biologist at the University of Pittsburgh, who said that this perception creates a "bias" among researches, defended the worthiness of conducting research to help lung cancer victims. "Yes, they make a choice, but they make that choice at a very early age when they are not old enough to understand what the risks are. These are problems that can't be solved by just saying, 'Just say no to smoking'" (Ready, Los Angeles Times, 3/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.