Tuberculosis makes lung cancer almost 11 times more common

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People with pulmonary tuberculosis appear to be at heightened risk of developing lung cancer, according to the results of a large, long-term study.

Among 716,872 insured, cancer-free persons in Taiwan, aged 20 years and older, 4,480 had been newly diagnosed with tuberculosis in the 1998-2000 period. Yu Yang-Hao and colleagues tracked these patients as well as those without tuberculosis from 2001 through 2007.

The investigators found that lung cancer incidence was 10.9 times higher in the tuberculosis group compared with the nontuberculosis group: 26.3 vs 2.41 per 10,000 person-years.

“This study provides compelling evidence of increased lung cancer risk among individuals with tuberculosis,” concluded the authors, who noted elsewhere in the study that a third of the world's population is infected with tuberculosis (J Thorac Oncol. 2011;6[1]:32-37). “The risk may increase further with coexisting [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] or other smoking-related cancers.”

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