In the United States, approximately 90% of lung cancer deaths are responsible by tobacco products, with cigarette smoking being the number one leading cause of lung cancer.
Recent research published in Nature Genetics shows that DNA repair genes may protect some smokers from lung cancer.
Researchers showed many smokers who never had lung cancer had an inherent advantage. They discovered that the lining of the lung cells was less prone to mutation over time.
In short, DNA repair genes were so active in some smokers that they stopped the person from developing cancer cells. This surprising discovery may finally explain why some smokers never get lung cancer.
The researchers examined the genetic profiles of the basal bronchial cells from 33 people. All of the participants ranged in age from 11 to 86. The remaining 19 people had various histories of being light, moderate, or heavy smokers, while 14 persons had never smoked.
They then analyzed the lung surface cells taken from the participants to determine the number of mutations in the individuals' genomes.
The results showed that these lung cells could live for years. Furthermore, the mutations might accumulate as a person matures and continues to smoke. According to a pulmonologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, these are also the most probable cells in the lung to become malignant.
The scientists discovered that the risk and mutation rate of those cells dramatically plateaus after around 23 years of smoking a pack a day. Because of how radically the mutation rates fluctuate, some longtime smokers never get lung cancer.
According to experts, their DNA may repair the body before cell mutations turn into cancers. Scientists believe that these DNA repair genes can be inherited or acquired. And it's still unclear why some people's bodies are more adept at repairing DNA than others.
According to the findings of this study, it may play a significant role in why 80 to 90 percent of longtime smokers never had lung cancer.
Even with this knowledge, the risk of smoking remains relatively high. In addition, geneticists intend to create new methods for assessing a person's ability to repair DNA. This might help us better understand the role of DNA repair in why lifetime smokers do not get lung cancer. Furthermore, it may help us better determine a person's risk of developing lung cancer.
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