By zeroing in on aberrations in two cancer-fighting genes, researchers have found a marker of cancer risk that could help doctors screen people for signs of lung cancer early enough for treatment to be effective.
Lung cancer will kill roughly 159,000 people in the United States this year, making it the deadliest malignancy. About 85 percent of patients are diagnosed too late for surgery, and they generally survive only 6 to 15 months. But when physicians catch the disease while it's still confined to the lung and nearby lymph nodes, surgery and other treatments give 60 to 80 percent of patients at least 5 more years to live.
To ascertain whether having the gene aberrations corresponds to lung cancer risk, researchers examined sputum samples taken in the 1970s from 21 people with squamous-cell cancer, some before and some after they were diagnosed. All these participants in a cancer-surveillance study had been smokers, and most had been exposed to radon gas at a work sit