A new urine test appears to distinguish which smokers are likely to get lung cancer and which are not, by detecting whether smokers have a particular chemical in their urine that’s been linked to lung cancer.
The risk of lung cancer was 8.5 times higher in those who had the highest levels of this chemical, NNAL, and the highest nicotine levels.
The test was studied in about 500 men and women in Shanghai and Singapore. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
“A history of smoking has always been thought of as a predictor of lung cancer, but it is actually not very accurate,” said Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, associate professor of public health at the University of Minnesota. “Smoking absolutely increases your risk, but why it does so in some people but not others is a big question.”
NNAL is created as the body metabolizes tobacco. The chemical has been shown to induce lung cancer in lab animals, but the effect in humans had not been studied until now. Researchers suspect that for genetic reasons, some people produce more NNAL than others, thereby increasing their risk of lung cancer.
Researchers say this test is no license to smoke; tobacco causes other health problems, such as emphysema, heart disease and other types of cancer.