Can Asthma Lead to Lung Cancer?

According to scientists from the University of Missouri, asthma can put you at an increased risk for lung cancer. There's no need to panic though, because other experts don't think that the study findings are strong enough to identify any real cause and effect.

The Research on Lung Cancer and Asthma

Past research efforts have identified a relationship between Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer, but the University of Missouri study is the first of its kind to find a correlation between asthma and lung cancer. The findings, which were based on data from 759 participants, revealed that 46.2 percent of those with asthma also have lung cancer, while only 22.5 percent of those without asthma have lung cancer. This information was presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Vancouver, British Columbia, CA.

Exploring the Possible Connections

Researchers believe that one possible explanation for the link between these two conditions is that the inflammation that commonly occurs with asthma could lead to the development of the cancer in some people. While this theory is worth taking note, however, critics point out that although asthma and COPD can cause lung scarring, the scarring won't cause lung cancer. This raises questions that still remain unanswered.

Additionally, these researchers didn't look at smoking as a risk factor in this group, although smoking is strongly linked to lung cancer. Therefore, it's difficult to find meaningful results.

What You Can Do

The general consensus in the medical community is that there's no need to change current asthma practices based on the study findings. Nonetheless, it's always better to be safe than sorry. You can use this study as a reminder to avoid your asthma triggers and use your medication as directed to reduce the chances of your asthma from becoming something more serious.

You can also make some positive lifestyle choices to help reduce your risk of adult on-set asthma and lung cancer:

  • Cease smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Check the radon levels at home and work. (You can buy a test at most hardware stores.)
  • Steer clear of asbestos.
  • Minimize exposure to chemicals and dangerous fumes.
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  • Get a flu shot every year and take care to avoid getting ill.

Pay Attention to New Symptoms

While there are no common early warning signs of lung cancer, if you do notice any unusual symptoms, you should always get them checked. A persistent cough, shortness of breath that your inhaler doesn't relieve, chest pain, and coughing up blood are all worth taking seriously. When in doubt, always see your doctor and have him do some tests to rule out lung cancer or any other respiratory illnesses.




Brown, D.W., Young, K.E., Anda, R.F., and Giles, W.H. "Asthma and risk of death from lung cancer: NHANES II Mortality Study." Journal of Asthma 42 (7) (Sept. 2005):597-600. Web. 2 Aug. 2011.

"Lung Disease Fact Sheet." Office on Women's Health/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 29 Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Aug. 2011.

Reinberg, Steven. "Asthma Linked to Lung Cancer Risk in Study." National Health Information Center, 10 Aug. 2011. Web, 10 Aug. 2011.