Study links chemical in urine to lung cancer

Professor Jian-Min Yuan has been working on the study since 1983.

A University of Minnesota professor may have found a way to make checking for lung cancer risks in smokers as easy as dropping oneâÄôs pants. Public Health professor Jian-Min Yuan has found that male smokers with high levels of certain chemicals in their urine were more likely to develop lung cancer. The chemicals include NNAL, which is found in cigarettes and cotinine. Yuan began the study in 1983 in Shanghai, China, where he collected data from about 18,000 cancer-free men. In 1993, he collected data from about 63,000 men and women in Singapore. Yuan collected urine and blood samples from about 50,000 people in those groups. Yuan froze the samples and has been studying them with University professor Stephen Hecht. Yuan remained in contact with the men he tested and after hearing that some of them had developed cancer, he began further research. Yuan said of the 50,000 samples, his study focused on about 250 cancer cases. About 15 percent of smokers die from lung cancer, which led him to begin the study more than 20 years ago, Yuan said. âÄúPeople always ask the question why some smokers develop lung cancer and some donâÄôt,âÄù he said. If he can prove this theory, Yuan said it could help fight cancer because men could go see the doctor and be tested for the two chemicals. If the chemicals are present, the doctor could tell men to stop smoking or have them visit once in a while to detect the cancer when it develops. The American Cancer Society estimates that there were 114,690 new cases of lung or bronchus cancer in 2008 among men. More than 161,800 people died from the disease, the society estimates.