Smokers with pneumonia at higher risk of lung cancer

New York, Jan 8 (IANS) Smokers hospitalised for pneumonia are at higher risk of getting diagnosed with lung cancer within one year, says a new study.

The findings suggest that screening heavy smokers admitted to the hospital for pneumonia could facilitate the early diagnosis of lung cancer and thereby reduce the incidence of mortality.

“We discovered that smokers hospitalised with pneumonia are diagnosed with cancer after the infection because often the cancer masquerades as pneumonia, physically obstructing the airway and creating such an infection,” said lead researcher Daniel Shepshelovich from Tel Aviv University in Israel.

The team examined the files of 381 admissions of heavy smokers with community-acquired pneumonia — a form of pneumonia contracted by a person with little contact with the health care system — at a hospital in Israel between 2007-2011.

They reviewed every patient’s medical file for patient demographics, smoking history, lung cancer risk factors and the anatomical location of the pneumonia.

The researchers found that out of 381 admissions of heavy smokers with pneumonia, nine percent were diagnosed with lung cancer within a year of being hospitalized.

Lung cancer incidence was found to be significantly higher in patients admitted with upper lobe pneumonia. They also found that the lung cancer was located in the lobe affected by pneumonia in 75.8 percent of cases.

“Considering that only 0.5-one percent of smokers without pneumonia have a chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer every year, the fact that nine percent of our study group developed lung cancer is alarming,” Shepshelovich noted.

“Only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are detected at an early stage. We want to increase that number in order to reduce mortality or, at the very least, extend lives,” Shepshelovich said.

The study was published in the American Journal of Medicine.

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