Passive smoking in youth can increase lung cancer risk

Issue for non-smokers arises if genetic factors exist while obesity a contributor, meeting hears

Non-smokers who suffered passive smoking in youth was associated with an earlier onset of cancer, in a person’s 50s rather than 60s, a Dublin conference on the disease was told. Photograph: Getty Images

Non-smokers who suffered passive smoking in youth was associated with an earlier onset of cancer, in a person’s 50s rather than 60s, a Dublin conference on the disease was told. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Non-smokers who were exposed to passive smoking in early life are at an increased risk of getting lung cancer, but only if they have genetic factors, a conference on cancer has been told.

This risk was also associated with an earlier onset of the disease, in a person’s 50s rather than 60s, according to Prof Catherine Hayes, a public health specialist in Trinity College Dublin.

Prof Elisabete Weiderpass of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden said there was no evidence the worldwide obesity epidemic was coming under control. Excess weight is linked to almost 500,000 cancer cases a year, mostly among women.

Public health interventions now needed to focus on the 5 per cent of children who were obese, she told the 10th international cancer conference in TCD. Among such measures were taxes on sugar-sweetened drinks such as that introduced in Mexico, where a 10 per cent tax had resulted in a 6 per cent drop in consumption.

The risk posed by 13 of the 26 most common cancers is reduced through physical activity, regardless of body size of smoking history, she said. However, individuals do not always enjoy the choice of taking physical activity because, in many cases, their environment is obesogenic.

“In many environments, physical activity is almost impossible. Governments needed to do more to create the environment that makes physical activity possible.”

Current guidelines recommend that people get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity – such as fast walking – which can be undertaken in short bursts.

The conference highlighted the growing promise of newer, personalised approaches to treating cancer, including the increased use of genomic profiling and new methods of predicting a patient’s response to various treatments.

Cancer institute

At the opening of the conference, TCD and St James’s Hospital announced their intention to develop a new cancer institute, the first of its kind in Ireland.

Based in St James’s, the institute will aim to set a new standard for cancer research and care through the integration of medicine and science. Funding will come from public and philanthropic sources.

The incidence of cancer is expected to increase by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2025 and by 100 per cent by 2040. Survival rates in Ireland have improved in recent years but still lag behind other western European countries.

The conference is one of a number of events being held to mark Cancer Week; the programme also include lectures and a conference of cancer survivors.