Researchers at the University of Toulouse III in France compared clinical, pathological and biological characteristics of lung cancer in groups of women smokers and women who never smoked.
The researchers looked at a total of 140 women, 63 never-smokers and 77 former/current smokers who had adenocarcinoma -- a form of non-small cell lung cancer. It is the type of lung cancer most commonly seen in women and is often seen in non-smokers.
The researchers observed differential genetic alteration repartition in women according to their tobacco status: 50.8 percent of never-smokers displayed an EGFR mutation versus 10.4 percent of smokers. In contrast, K-Ras was more frequently mutated in smokers at 33.8 percent than in never-smokers at 9.5 percent. The researchers also observed a higher percentage of estrogen receptors in patients who never smoked when compared with smokers.
The study, scheduled to be published in the July issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, concluded lung cancer in women who have never smoked is more frequently associated with EGFR mutations and estrogen receptor overexpression.
"These findings underline the possibility of treatment for women who have never smoked with drugs to target hormonal factors, genetic abnormalities, or both," the study authors said in a statement.