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Urine test may detect lung cancer risk in smokers

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

Researchers may have uncovered a way to determine which smokers are at the highest risk of developing lung cancer. Presenting results at the American Association for Cancer Research's 2009 Meeting, researchers said that high urine levels of two metabolites - NNAL and cotinine - predicted increased cancer risk.

"A history of smoking has always been thought of as a predictor of lung cancer, but it is actually not very accurate," said researcher Jian-Min Yuan, Ph.D., M.D. "Smoking absolutely increases your risk, but why it does so in some people but not others is a big question."

Collecting data from thousands of men enrolled in studies in Shanghai and Singapore, the researchers compared 246 smokers who later developed lung cancer with 245 smokers who did not.

Higher levels of NNAL in the urine were linked to increased risk of developing lung cancer, as were higher levels of cotinine. Those with the highest levels of both NNAL and cotinine had an 8.5-fold increase in the risk of lung cancer when compared with smokers who had the lowest levels of both metabolites when the smoking history was the same.

The research is still in the preliminary stages and no urine test will be commercially available for some time.

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