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Smokers Affected By Pneumonia Are At Higher Risk Of Lung Cancer

Update Date: Jan 08, 2016 08:56 AM EST

Smokers who have been diagnosed with pneumonia face a greater risk of lung cancer. The new study has been conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University and Rabin Medical Center.

Scientists explain that it is better to have accurate screening for smokers who have been admitted to the hospital with "community-acquired pneumonia". It is important to conduct the screenings in order to reduce the risks for smokers.

Lung cancer seems to be the leading cause of cancer mortality in the US. There is a five-year survival rate of just 17 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Researchers looked at the files of 381 admissions of smokers at Rabin Medical Center between 2007-2011, who exhibited symptoms of "community-acquired pneumonia". This would be contracted by a patient who has little touch with a health care system.

Scientists probed lung cancer risks, smoking history and also the "anatomical location" of pneumonia. They cross-checked the available data with the database at Israel's National Cancer Registry  in order to detect new diagnoses of cancer.

It was observed that 31 of the cases, or 9 percent of the sample, had lung cancer. It seemed to affect more patients admitted with upper lobe pneumonia (23.8 percent). The lung cancer located in the lobe affected by pneumonia seemed to be affecting about 75.8 percent of cases.

"We discovered that smokers hospitalized 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 Daniel Shepshelovich, MD, of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Rabin Medical Center, in a news release. "Considering that only 0.5-1% of smokers without pneumonia have a chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer every year, the fact that 9% of our study group developed lung cancer is alarming."

"The current diagnostic methods in place -- chest X-rays, sputum cytology -- sometimes find the cancerous tumors, but they do not change mortality rates," Shepshelovich added. "In other words, people are aware that they have cancer for longer periods of time, but do not recover. This is not a solution.

"Smokers admitted to the hospital with pneumonia should be considered for chest-computer tomography," he concluded. "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."

The study is published in the American Journal of Medicine.

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