A rare genetic disorder may be responsible for more than a million cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States, according to a new study.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at data from the National Death Index, a publicly available database that tracks the deaths of people ages 65 and older, to find out if the condition was associated with a higher risk of cancer deaths.
The analysis found the genetic condition, cystic fibrosis, was linked to a 4.3% increase in deaths from cancer in the USA.
Cancer researchers have long been aware of cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes fibrosis of the lungs, and its associated health problems.
It’s estimated that more than 200,000 people have the genetic disorder, but no one has definitively linked it to more deaths than expected.
According to the study, which focused on deaths from 2014-2016, about 6.6 million people in the U.S. died of cancer between 2002 and 2014, and about 1.5 million died of lung cancer.
The numbers represent just 1.3 percent of all cancer deaths that occurred in that time.
The researchers said they were unsure of the exact number of deaths from lung cancer in women, but noted that the risk of death from lung cancers is higher in men.
The genetic condition is thought to cause lung tumors to grow and grow.
In the study’s abstract, lead author Dr. Steven Pimentel, director of the Center for the Study of Cancer Epidemiology at Harvard Medical School, wrote that cystic flushes have been linked to other conditions, including asthma and heart disease.
“We have some idea that the association between the disease and lung cancer is due to the same underlying mechanisms, so it’s really an example of an environment, rather than a disease, which has driven the association,” Pimentels told ABC News.
“The data show that cysts can affect lung function, and this is a common finding among cystic lung disease patients.
And these findings have implications for public health because the lung cancer mortality rates for those who are not smokers are about one-third higher than those who smoke.”
Pimentels said the finding was surprising because lung cancer and cystic cysts are not the same.
“If we could get the lung function data back from the lung cysts, and we can measure that in a real way, we would be able to tease out these mechanisms that cause the lung cancers,” Piments said.
He said the findings are important for understanding why the condition has become so common in people.
“This is a disease that has been associated with lung cancer for more years than we can remember, and yet we are seeing that it is a fairly common disease in this population,” Pimental said.
Pimentel said it could be that people with the genetic disease who develop lung cystic tumors are more likely to have a high-risk of developing lung cancer later in life.
“It’s also possible that the lung condition predisposes people to lung cancer early in life, but the cause is unknown,” Pmentels said.
The National Cancer Institute has released an update on the new study, calling the association with lung cancers “potentially significant,” noting that the new data show there may be a “strong correlation” between cystic infections and lung cancers.
The institute added that cystitis is a genetic condition that occurs when the mucous membranes of the lining of the esophagus and stomach are inflamed.
It is most common in adults and is often caused by bacterial infections or viral infections, such as HIV.
Pimental said that although the study doesn’t prove causality, it’s clear that the genetic conditions are linked to lung cancers, and that this could be a new disease.
Dr. David Siegel, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said it’s likely that the mutation could also be linked with the other common cancers that occur in people with cystic or chronic infections, including breast cancer.
“There’s a strong correlation between cyst infections and cancer, and there’s also a strong association between cysts and other diseases like asthma and COPD, so this finding may not be an outlier but may reflect a broader trend,” Siegel told ABCNews.
Siegel added that while cystic cancer is more common in men, it has become more common among women.
“I don’t know why, but it appears to be more common, particularly among women, for cystic disease,” he said.