Lung Cancer Susceptibility Influenced by Genetic Makeup

Scientists identify several new variants that affect the risk of lung cancer development.

Genetic makeup may increase an individual’s susceptibility to lung cancer, new research suggests.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality among both men and women worldwide, accounting for an estimated 1 of 4 cancer deaths. Risk factors include a personal or family history of cancer, exposure to asbestos and radon, tobacco smoke, and air pollution. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer and is thought to cause approximately 80% of cancer deaths.

However, variations in an individual’s genetic makeup has also been considered a risk factor, responsible for an estimated 12% of cases.

In a study published in Nature Genetics, investigators sought to identify genetic variants associated with lung cancer risk. They used the research platform OncoArray to gather genotype data from different studies around the globe.

The investigators examined samples from more than 29,200 lung cancer patients and 56,000 controls. They identified 18 genetic variants that could increase an individual’s susceptibility to lung cancer, as well as 10 new gene variations.

“This study has identified several new variants for lung cancer risk that will translate into improved understanding of the mechanisms involved in lung cancer risk,” said chief investigator John Field. “These results will help us to further improve the way we can screen for lung cancer in high-risk individuals in the UK. Further studies will help in the targeting of specific genes to influencing lung cancer risk, smoking behavior, and smoking effects on brain biology.”

Samples for the large-scale association analysis were obtained from the Liverpool Lung Project, funded by the Roy Castle Foundation. The size of the sample makes it one of the largest of its type in the world, according to the study authors.

“What is particularly exciting is the magnitude of the study along with the new findings of genes influencing lung cancer, which have not previously been reported,” said co-lead author Christopher Amos. “This study definitely leads to new ideas about the mechanisms influencing lung cancer risk.

The authors concluded that “further exploration of the target genes will continue to provide new insights into the etiology of lung cancer.”