Letter | Published:

Lung Cancer as an Endocrine Disease


EVERY cigarette smoker does not develop lung cancer and so factors other than smoking must determine whether or not this disease develops. I have been investigating the possibility that hormones are involved in the development of lung cancer, and have measured the content of individual and total 17-oxosteroids and total 17-hydroxycorticosteroids (17-OHcs) in the urine of patients and controls. I found that patients with lung cancer excreted less androsterone (3α-hydroxy-5α-androstan-17-one), compared with its 5β-isomer aetiocholanolone, and more 17-OHcs than normal subjects1. Low androsterone excretion in patients with lung cancer had been reported before2. The mean ratios of androsterone to aetiocholanolone and of androsterone to 17-OHcs in eighty-four patients were significantly (P < 0.00001) lower than those of 100 normal men and of fifty-two control patients with chest diseases other than lung cancer (hospital controls). In fact the ratio of 17-OHcs to androsterone can be used as a diagnostic test for lung cancer with an accuracy of about 90% (Fig. 1). When the differences between cancer patients and controls were combined by linear discriminant analysis1, more than 90% of patients had negative discriminant scores whereas more than 90% of normal men had positive scores.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Rao, L. G. S., Lancet, ii, 441 (1970).

  2. 2

    Marmorston, J., Weiner, J. M., Hopkins, C. E., and Stern, E., Cancer, 19, 985 (1966).

  3. 3

    Greenstein, P., The Biochemistry of Cancer (Academic, New York, 1954).

  4. 4

    Mason, J. W., Psychsom. Med., 30, 576 (1968).

  5. 5

    Cooke, J. N. C., James, V. H. T., Landon, J., and Wynn, V., Brit. Med. J., 1, 662 (1964).

  6. 6

    Azzopardi, J. G., Freeman, E., and Poole, G., Brit. Med. J., 4, 528 (1970).

  7. 7

    Jones, J. E., Shane, S. R., Gilbert, E., and Flink, E. B., J. Clin. Endocrinol., 29, 1 (1969).

  8. 8

    Furman, R. H., and Howard, R. P., Metabolism, 11, 76 (1962).

  9. 9

    Rao, L. G. S., and Hewit, M. L., Lancet, ii, 1063 (1970).

  10. 10

    Thornes, R. D., in Endogenous Factors Affecting Host-Tumour Balance (edit. by Wissler, R. W., Dao, T. L., and Wood, S.), 255 (University of Chicago, Chicago, 1967).

  11. 11

    Dao, T. L., in Endogenous Factors Affecting Host-Tumour Balance (edit. by Wissler, R. W., Dao, T. L., and Wood, S.), 75 (University of Chicago, Chicago, 1967).

  12. 12

    McNamara, J. J., Varon, H. H., Paulson, D. L., Shah, I., and Urschael, H., J. Thorac. Cardiovasc. Surg., 56, 371 (1968).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.