Researchers call it grim news for women: a gene that makes lung cancer grow with unusual speed, often with fatal consequences, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.
The gene makes lung cancer so aggressive that even early detection seldom stops its spread. Researchers found women who had this gene were four times more likely to die than women that did not have this gene. The findings were discovered at Harvard University and the University of California in San Francisco. Researchers found women smokers were three times more likely than men to have the gene.
The threat of lung cancer in women is often underestimated, doctors say, and many women aren't aware they may be susceptible to a fast attack from lung cancer.
"The greatest threat to their lives from cancer is not breast cancer or cervical cancer. It's actually lung cancer," says John Wiencke of University of California at San Francisco.
Dr. David Jablons, a surgeon who treats people with lung cancer, says the discovery of this added risk for women smokers may at least open up new avenues for treatment.
"If you can identify a problem, you can think of ways to outwit it or effectively to treat that problemat least we found it," he says.
Usually quitting smoking reduces cancer risk, but these findings suggest that for some women deadly changes may begin from the very first cigarette.
"The message is absolutely, positively stop smoking," Jablons says.
©MMII CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed