Is Lung Cancer Different in Women Than in Men?

By on November 11, 2011

By Christina Baik, MD, MPH –

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women, affecting some 70,000 women in the United States annually. Several studies suggest that women develop the disease more without tobacco exposure than men. Fifteen to twenty percent of women with lung cancer have never smoked. So, is lung cancer different in women than in men?

Lung cancer cells have estrogen receptors, areas on the surface of the cell that can bind with estrogen. The cancer cells also have progesterone receptors which is another important hormone in women.

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Large research studies have shown that certain forms of hormone replacement therapy, specifically the therapy with estrogen and progestin combination, can lead to higher lung cancer death.

With support from the Lung Cancer Research Foundation, I was also able to show that some aspects of a woman’s reproductive history could affect lung cancer development. Recent studies have also shown that women who take antiestrogen therapies, like tamoxifen may have a reduced risk of lung cancer death.

Understanding the link between estrogen and lung cancer may fuel new approaches to managing lung cancer in women in the future. For more information on research in lung cancer visit

Christina Baik, MD, MPH is dedicated to lung cancer prevention research and her research goal is to identify risk factors of lung cancer among never smokers and modifiable risk factors among former smokers using epidemiological methodology. She is also involved in biomarker research with the goal of developing early detection bio markers for lung cancer.

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Is Lung Cancer Different in Women Than in Men?