-- Robert Preidt
SUNDAY, June 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Up to one in four
smokers with a particular genetic defect will develop lung cancer,
"Smokers in general have nearly a 15 percent chance of developing lung cancer, far higher than in nonsmokers. Our results show that some smokers with BRCA2 mutations are at an enormous risk of lung cancer -- somewhere in the region of 25 percent over their lifetime," said study leader Richard Houlston. He's a professor of molecular and population genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom.
"Lung cancer claims more than a million lives a year worldwide," he said in an institute news release. "We know that the single biggest thing we can do to reduce death rates is to persuade people not to smoke, and our new findings make plain that this is even more critical in people with an underlying genetic risk."
The link between lung cancer and the defect in the BRCA2 gene
was discovered by analyzing the DNA of more than 11,000 Europeans
with lung cancer and almost 16,000 without the disease.
This particular BRCA2 defect -- already known to increase the
risk of breast cancer -- occurs in about 2 percent of people and
almost doubles the risk of lung cancer, according to the study
published online June 1 in the journal
The link between the BRCA2 defect and lung cancer was
particularly strong among patients with the most common type of
lung cancer -- squamous cell lung cancer. The researchers also
identified a link between squamous cell lung cancer and a defect in
another gene called CHEK2, which normally prevents cells from
dividing when they have damaged DNA.
The study findings suggest that drugs designed to target BRCA
mutations might benefit patients with squamous cell lung cancer. A
class of drugs called PARP inhibitors have shown promise in
clinical trials involving breast and ovarian cancer patients with
BRCA mutations, but it's not known if these drugs could help lung
cancer patients, the study authors said.
It's also important to note that while the researchers found a
strong link between a defect in the BRCA2 gene and lung cancer, the
study didn't prove that the genetic defect was responsible for
causing lung cancer.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines
lung cancer risk factors.
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