A tuberculosis vaccine, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), may reduce a person’s risk of developing lung cancer if given early in childhood, a six-decade-long study has revealed.
The vaccine is approved for preventing tuberculosis (TB)—a potentially fatal infectious disease that typically attacks the lungs.
According to the study published on MedicalXpress, the vaccine may have some positive side effects.
The study was published on September 25 in the journal JAMA Open.
The Director of Infectious Diseases at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Naomi Aronson, said, “BCG-vaccinated participants had a significant 2.5-fold lower rate of lung cancer.”
She said lower lung cancer rates persisted in those who received the vaccine no matter where they lived, and whether they smoked, drank alcohol or had tuberculosis.
Ms Aronson, a senior author of the study, noted that BCG affects the immune system somehow and may provide even more benefit in the lungs.
According to the report, the initial study was conducted in 3,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children in the 1930s.
If the findings are confirmed in different groups, Ms Aronson said the use of BCG vaccine in childhood “might be considered for risk reduction for lung cancer over a lifetime.”
Len Lichtenfeld, interim Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, reviewed the study and called the findings fascinating.
He said the authors went to great lengths to validate their information.
He, however, noted that it is unlikely that BCG will be used for lung cancer prevention.
“While the study found a statistically significant reduction in the rate of lung cancer, the actual number of cases was very low. Just 42 people in the study were diagnosed with lung cancer.
“There’s also a serious, ongoing shortage of BCG vaccine that would limit any such efforts,” he said
Mr Lichtenfeld said there is a very effective way to prevent many cases of lung cancer. Don’t smoke. And, if you do, quit, he said.
“Tobacco causes most, but not all lung cancers. Not smoking helps prevent many cancers,” he said.