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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Breath test may identify people with high lung cancer risk, in future


HealthDay News - A simple breath test could someday help predict who's at highest risk of getting lung cancer.
In preliminary research, the breath test was successful in finding cancer "markers," said senior researcher Dr. Simon D. Spivack, a pulmonologist at the Wadsworth Center, the public health laboratory of the New York State Department of Health.
That's important, he added, because "lung cancer [typically] exists for a decade or two before it is diagnosed."
His team was expected to present the results Sunday at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Boston.
Lung cancer remains the No. 1 cancer killer of both men and women in the United States. According to the American Lung Association, over 160,000 Americans die of the disease each year.
One reason for the high death toll: About 70 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed in the late stages, according to the Lung Cancer Alliance, a national advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. However, one recent study found that, if diagnosed early, 92 percent of patients could expect to live 10 years.
Doctors have long sought a reliable early detection method. Even when something that looks like a predictor of cancer is found -- such as a nodule on the lung during a CT scan -- it's still not a foolproof way to determine who will get cancer, Spivack said.
"What we find in middle-age smokers is that 20 to 80 percent of these people have nodules," he said. "But 95 percent of the nodules are not cancer and are not going to be."
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