There will be extra credit if you are not a physician and know what the letters in the title of this article mean. MetS is the short hand way of saying “metabolic syndrome”. The metabolic syndrome is the presence of any three of the following 5 conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein. Surprisingly, in the US about 2% of the population has the metabolic syndrome. Generally, this is a condition that is addressed by your family physician not your pulmonary doctor (although obesity can cause problems with your breathing).

Keeping in mind one of my basic themes that all systems are connected and things work together, observations have shown that the presence of the metabolic syndrome increases a patient’s risk of lung cancer. Some of the patients in a recent study were shown to have an elevated lung cancer risk even if they did not smoke but the risk increased if they were a smoker.

What does this mean for the pulmonary physician? It means that the presence of any 3 of the above mentioned 5 conditions should be taken into account in assessing a patient’s risk for lung cancer not just their smoking habits. Taking into account the patient’s metabolic status may be just as important as knowing their family, work and smoking history when deciding on who should be screened for lung cancer. Helping with the metabolic syndrome is a new target for the prevention of lung cancer.