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Studying Lung Cancer Among Women Who Have Never Smoked

We're excited to introduce a new series highlighting ongoing research projects in the California Teachers Study. This blog post series on "What are we studying?" will provide insight into on-going data analyses before they are even published. You’ll be able to see how the answers you have provided to past questionnaires continue to drive research into the causes of cancer and other health conditions, decades after you completed your first questionnaire!

Our first post in this series explores exciting new research on the causes of lung cancer.

The research question:

What factors are associated with lung cancer diagnosed among women who never smoked?

Although smoking is the most well-known risk for developing lung cancer, a number of women who have never smoked still develop the disease.

Meet the researcher: Dr. Loretta Erhunmwunsee, M.D. is an Assistant Professor in City of Hope's Division of Thoracic Surgery. Her research focuses eliminating racial and socioeconomic disparities in lung cancer. You can learn more about Dr. Erhunmwunsee's work by clicking here.

What makes this project unique:

The California Teachers Study offers a unique opportunity to study the causes of lung cancer among non-smokers because so many of our study participants never smoked. Smoking rates in California are lower than in many other states overall, so this research project can provide valuable insights into what might cause lung cancer among women who have never smoked across the country.

This project focuses on the “social determinants of health.” The social determines of health are the conditions in which we all live, work, and play. For example, your age, income, education, occupation, neighborhood, stress levels, and environmental exposures all affect how healthy you are, who gets sick, and what happens after we get sick.

This project will combine California Teachers Study data with similar data from other nationwide research studies (such as the Women's Health Initiative and the Black Women's Health Study) in order to examine all the different factors that may affect a woman’s risk of developing lung cancer.

The questionnaire answers being used:

This project combines your answers to three previous questionnaires in order to examine risk factors for lung cancer.

Questionnaire 1 (1995):

- Smoking habits

- Alcohol use

- Current medications at the time

- Any health conditions diagnosed as of 1995

- Family history

- Use of menopausal hormone therapy

- Physical activity at the time

Questionnaire 3 (2000):

- Marital status

Questionnaire 4 (2005):

- Answers Healthcare coverage, such as whether you had private medication insurance or Medicaid

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