Lung cancer in young adults

W. Bourke, D. Milstein, R. Giura, M. Donghi, M. Luisetti, A. H.E. Rubin, L. J. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Objective: To define the basis for the conflicting reports on the prognosis of lung cancer in young adults. Design: Retrospective review of lung cancer patients between 1977 and 1988. Setting: Medical centers in Chicago (Northwestern Memorial Hospital), northern Israel (Rambam Medical Center), and northern Italy (S. Anna and U. of Pavia Hospitals). Patients: Patients were ≤45 years of age with a diagnosis of primary lung cancer identified from tumor registry records, pathology reports, and hospital charts, plus a sample of patients >45 years of age. Measurements and Main Results: In Chicago, younger patients had a higher incidence of chest pain, fever, and neurologic symptoms at presentation than the older patients, and fewer were asymptomatic. They also had more lower lobe lesions on chest roentgenogram, a higher incidence of adenocarcinoma, more advanced disease, an increased likelihood of receiving chemotherapy, and reduced survival (p<0.03). The poorer prognosis was due to more advanced disease at presentation. In Israel, younger patients more frequently presented with stage I disease than the older patients and they had a higher incidence of adenocarcinoma, an increased likelihood of receiving treatment especially surgery, and better survival (p<0.02). There were no differences between the two age groups for symptoms, symptom duration, and chest roentgenogram findings. Compared with the younger patients in Chicago and Israel, those from northern Italy had more squamous cell cancers and fewer adenocarcinomas, more commonly presented with stage I or II disease, received radiation therapy less frequently, and were given supportive care more often. Survival was low and comparable to that reported from Chicago. Conclusion: Differences exist in the clinical characteristics, pathologic findings, and prognosis of younger and older patients with lung cancer from the same region and of younger patients from different regions. The difference in prognosis is related in part to the stage of disease at presentation and the ability to undergo resectional surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1723-1729
Number of pages7
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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