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Chest. 2010 Dec;138(6):1295-302. doi: 10.1378/chest.09-2567. Epub 2010 Mar 26.

Are airflow obstruction and radiographic evidence of emphysema risk factors for lung cancer? A nested case-control study using quantitative emphysema analysis.

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Rochester, MN 55905, USA. Maldonado.Fabien@mayo.edu



Several studies have identified airflow obstruction as a risk factor for lung cancer independent of smoking history, but the risk associated with the presence of radiographic evidence of emphysema has not been extensively studied. We proposed to assess this risk using a quantitative volumetric CT scan analysis.


Sixty-four cases of lung cancer were identified from a prospective cohort of 1,520 participants enrolled in a spiral CT scan lung cancer screening trial. Each case was matched to six control subjects for age, sex, and smoking history. Quantitative CT scan analysis of emphysema was performed. Spirometric measures were also conducted. Data were analyzed using conditional logistic regression making use of the 1:6 set groups of 64 cases and 377 matched control subjects.


Decreased FEV(1) and FEV(1)/FVC were significantly associated with a diagnosis of lung cancer with ORs of 1.15 (95% CI, 1.00-1.32; P = .046) and 1.29 (95% CI, 1.02-1.62; P = .031), respectively. The quantity of radiographic evidence of emphysema was not found to be a significant risk for lung cancer with OR of 1.042 (95% CI, 0.816-1.329; P = .743). Additionally, there was no significant association between severe emphysema and lung cancer with OR of 1.57 (95% CI, 0.73-3.37).


We confirm previous observations that airflow obstruction is an independent risk factor for lung cancer. The absence of a clear relationship between radiographic evidence of emphysema and lung cancer using an automated quantitative volumetric analysis may result from different population characteristics than those of prior studies, radiographic evidence of emphysema quantitation methodology, or absence of any relationship between emphysema and lung cancer risk.

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