People with tuberculosis may be at high risk for another serious lung problem – cancer of the lung. According to a new study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology the risk of lung cancer is higher in people who have a tuberculosis diagnosis.
Tuberculosis and Lung Cancer: Are People with Tuberculosis at Higher Risk?
Experts have long questioned whether the risk of lung cancer in people with tuberculosis is higher. Tuberculosis is a lung disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This hardy bacteria affects not only the lungs, but it can impact virtually any organ system in the body.
When Mycobacterium tuberculosis attacks the lungs, it causes the body to launch an aggressive immune response to keep the bacteria from spreading to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, this immune response causes tissue inflammation and fibrosis, which may increase the risk of lung cancer.
Researchers at the China Medical University in Taiwan put the idea that tuberculosis increases the risk of lung cancer to the test. They followed over 700,000 adults, some of whom had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and some who were healthy, for a total of six years. During this time, they discovered that the adults with tuberculosis were almost eleven times more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer.
There’s more bad news for those with a tuberculosis diagnosis. In this study, they also had a higher overall mortality than participants with healthy lungs, and their lung cancer risk rose even further if they also had chronic lung disease from smoking.
The Risk of Lung Cancer in People with Tuberculosis: What Does This Mean?
If you’ve been diagnosed with tuberculosis, it’s important to regularly follow-up with your doctor. Even if you were successfully treated for tuberculosis and are feeling well, you may still be at higher risk of lung cancer. It’s equally important to stop smoking since smoking is another independent risk factor for lung cancer, and people who smoke and have tuberculosis are at even higher risk.
Other ways to lower the risk of lung cancer include avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke and testing your home for radon. Radon is an odorless gas that many people have in their home that increases lung cancer risk. Be sure to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
The Bottom Line?
People with tuberculosis are likely at higher risk of lung cancer. Practice a healthy lifestyle, and see your doctor regularly if you’ve had a tuberculosis diagnosis.
Eurekalert.org. “Study finds evidence of increased lung cancer risk among tuberculosis patients”
Pubmed. “Pulmonary tuberculosis increases the risk of lung cancer”