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Cancer. 1993 May 15;71(10):3054-7.

Lung cancer after radiation therapy for breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032.



Radiation, including radiation therapy (RT) for a variety of conditions, is known to be a lung carcinogen.


Data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program of the National Cancer Institute for 1973-1986 were utilized to investigate whether RT for breast cancer affects the risk of subsequent lung cancer. The relative risk was calculated by comparing the incidence rate in patients with irradiated breast cancer with that in those with nonirradiated breast cancer.


It was found that the risk of lung cancer overall was increased in women who underwent irradiation compared with those who were not irradiated 10 years after the initial breast cancer diagnosis with a relative risk of 2.0 (95% confidence interval, 1.0-4.3). In addition, the risk of lung cancer was in the ipsilateral lung compared with the contralateral lung for irradiated women. This increase was observed after 10 years for lung cancer overall and for the three major histologic subgroups (small cell, squamous cell, and adenocarcinoma). Specific information on RT doses and treatment plans and cigarette smoking were not available.


It was concluded that RT for breast cancer may increase the risk of lung cancer after a latency period of 10 years.

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