Why is it that some people can smoke for 50 years and never get lung cancer and then someone who barely smoked and died of lung cancer? Three studies published Wednesday from M.D. Anderson, Johns Hopkins and another from overseas, identify a genetic variant on chromosome 15.
Margaret Spitz, M.D., of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, says, "It causes them to have greater difficulty to quit smoking and at the same time we believe it is associated with greater susceptibility to the cancer causing effects of cigarette smoking."
Researchers say more studies need to be done but they hope to develop a test that could find the gene and block its affect. The researchers caution people without the variant should not consider this a green light to smoke because they would still be at risk of other smoking-related diseases.
The researchers studied genetic markers in more than 35,000 people in Europe, Canada and the U.S. and determined that the variant explains 18% of cases of lung cancer and 10% of peripheral artery disease. The study only looked at Caucasians of European descent in order to eliminate ethnic differences. They plan to study African Americans and Asian Americans soon.
The three studies were published Wednesday in the Journal Nature and Nature Genetics and they were conducted at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer, Decode Genetics of Iceland, and Johns Hopkins University.