Washington: Lung cancers can lie dormant for over 20 years before suddenly turning into an aggressive form of the disease, according to a study published Thursday in the US journal Science.
The study, led by researchers at the Cancer Research UK, examined lung cancers from seven patients, including smokers, ex-smokers and never smokers.
It found that after the first genetic mistakes that cause the cancer, it can exist undetected for many years until new, additional faults trigger rapid growth of the disease, Xinhua reported.
The researchers hoped this study will help improve early detection of the disease.
Currently, two-thirds of patients with lung cancer are diagnosed with advanced forms of the disease when treatments are less likely to be successful.
"By understanding how it develops we've opened up the disease's evolutionary rule book in the hope that we can start to predict its next steps," study author Charles Swanton, professor at the Cancer Research UK said in a statement.