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Smoking duration and genes

Smokers with a specific genetic variation are more likely to keep smoking longer than those who don’t have the gene variant. They’re also more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer at a younger age, according to new research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

SMOKERS WITH A SPECIFIC GENE VARIANT ARE LIKELY TO KEEP SMOKING LONGER THAN THOSE WHO DON’T HAVE THE GENE. RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS LED A STUDY THAT ALSO FOUND THAT THOSE WHO HAVE THE GENE VARIANT AND SMOKE ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE DIAGNOSED WITH LUNG CANCER AT A YOUNGER AGE. JIM DRYDEN REPORTS…

THE RESEARCH TEAM, LED BY GENETICS AND ADDICTION RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS, ANALYZED DATA GATHERED FROM MORE THAN 29 THOUSAND SMOKERS OF EUROPEAN DESCENT WHO HAD PARTICIPATED IN 24 STUDIES. THEY FOUND THAT WHEN SMOKERS HAD A PARTICULAR VARIATION IN A NICOTINE RECEPTOR GENE, THEY WERE LIKELY TO HAVE A HARDER TIME QUITTING. THE RESEARCHERS REACHED THAT CONCLUSION BECAUSE PEOPLE WITH THE GENE VARIANT WERE ABOUT FOUR YEARS OLDER WHEN THEY QUIT SMOKING, AVERAGING 56 RATHER THAN THE 52 YEARS OLD THAT WAS TYPICAL FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT THE GENE VARIANT. THE STUDY’S FIRST AUTHOR, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY RESEARCHER LI-SHIUN CHEN, SAYS THEY ALSO WERE, ON AVERAGE, LIKELY TO BE DIAGNOSED WITH LUNG CANCER AT A YOUNGER AGE.

(act) :13 o/c low-risk people

People with risk variants are diagnosed with lung cancer

four years sooner. This is a difference between age 61

versus age 65 for high- versus low-risk people.

AND CONSIDERING HOW COMMON, AND HOW DEADLY, LUNG CANCER IS, BEING FOUR YEARS YOUNGER AT THE TIME OF DIAGNOSIS IS A BIG DEAL.

(act) :18 o/c life changing

And this is important because lung cancer is the most

common cancer in the United States and worldwide. Half

of them die within a year of diagnosis, and only one in

six survived at five years. So an earlier diagnosis of

lung cancer, by four years, is really life changing.

CHEN SAYS IT APPEARS GENETICS AND PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR COOPERATE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THAT EARLY CANCER DIAGNOSIS AND MORE DIFFICULTY QUITTING.

(act) :18 o/c lung cancer

The risk gene will make a person smoke more, inhale

deeper and also quit later. So longer duration in

smoking, harder time in quitting and inhaling deeper

really combine and cause an acceleration of lung cancer.

THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT PEOPLE WITH THE SAME GENE VARIANT THAT CONTRIBUTES TO RISK ALSO ARE MORE LIKELY TO RESPOND TO DRUG THERAPIES DESIGNED TO HELP THEM QUIT SMOKING.

(act) :23 o/c with treatments

The same people with high-risk genes are more likely to get

lung cancer early, but they’re also more likely to respond

to smoking-cessation medications, such as nicotine-replacement

patches or lozenges of gum. Even though it does increase a

person’s risk for lung cancer earlier, but it also … this risk

can be reversed with treatments.

SO CHEN SAYS THE CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE NEW FINDINGS ARE SUBSTANTIAL. SHE SAYS CURRENT SCREENING METHODS DON’T TAKE THESE RISKS INTO ACCOUNT, AND SHE SAYS THESE FINDING SUGGEST THAT WHEN SCREENING FOR CANCER, DOCTORS MAY DO WELL TO CONSIDER MORE THAN JUST THE PATIENT’S AGE AND THE AMOUNT THEY SMOKE.

(act) :20 o/c lung cancer

So the problem with the current screening criteria is that

it doesn’t precisely pick up people who are at increase risk.

So adding the genetic information to the screening criteria

will help us to really focus our resources in screening on

people who are truly at high risk of getting lung cancer.

THE STUDY IS PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE. I’M JIM DRYDEN…

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