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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2012 Apr;5(4):522-7. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0042.

Genetic predisposition to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and/or lung cancer: important considerations when evaluating risk.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Division of Cancer Prevention, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1155 Pressler Street, #1340, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined as a disease causing an airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. COPD is phenotypically complex and characterized by small-airway disease and/or emphysema that result from the interaction between host genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures. As in lung cancer, smoking exposure is the most important risk factor for the development of COPD, accounting for 80% to 90% of all cases. COPD affects an estimated 8% to 10% of the general adult population, 15% to 20% of the smoking population, and 50% to 80% of lung cancer patients (with substantial smoking histories). In prospective studies, COPD has been found to be an independent risk factor for lung cancer, conferring a three- to 10-fold increased risk of lung cancer when compared with smokers without COPD. These findings suggest that smokers have a host susceptibility to COPD alone, COPD and lung cancer (i.e., overlap), and lung cancer in the absence of COPD. This minireview focuses on important points that need to be addressed when studying genetic susceptibility factors for COPD and its complex relationship with susceptibility to lung cancer.

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