While they are definitely different conditions, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer are sometimes linked. According to the Cancer Prevention & Treatment Fund, an estimated 50 to 90 percent of lung cancer patients also have COPD. What causes the link between these two conditions? There are two primary possibilities.
The Cancer Prevention & Treatment Fund points out that researchers believe COPD and lung cancer both originate from inflammation, which has multiple sources, including:
Environmental risk factors
Exposure to cigarette smoke is the primary risk factor for both COPD and lung cancer because it causes chronic inflammation. Plus, if a patient already has COPD, the disease may reduce the body’s ability to detoxify cigarette smoke. This makes the smoke even more toxic and may cause tumors to spread beyond the lungs.
Presence of COPD
The inflammation that COPD patients suffer from can activate proteins that make cancer cells grow faster. Plus, the proteins that repair DNA in lung cells can become deactivated when COPD is present.
Chronic inflammation from a genetic predisposition can cause the airways and lungs to repeatedly injure and repair themselves. This leads to uncontrolled cell growth and, eventually, lung cancer.
Female Sex Hormones
According to the Cancer Prevention & Treatment Fund, asthma, COPD and lung cancer are the three most common types of lung diseases contracted by women. The presence of estradiol (a type of estrogen) and other female sex hormones causes airways to become more inflamed when you smoke, which is one reason why women are more likely than men to develop COPD and lung cancer. Estadiol also increases the production of certain lung proteins that make your body more susceptible to the damaging effects of cigarette smoke.
Some women complain that asthma, COPD and lung cancer symptoms worsen in the days before their menstrual cycles, seemingly because of abrupt changes in hormone levels. After menopause, female hormone production decreases and the likelihood that lung problems are caused by female sex hormones declines.
If you were recently diagnosed with COPD, make sure you are educating yourself about the disease. Download the free guide, "COPD 101," to get you started.
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