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A special genetic mechanism helps many long-time smokers not get lung cancer

In the latest guidelines, the US National Public Health Agency also warned that smokers are 15 to 30 times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-smokers.

Furthermore, this finding could help explain why some people who never smoke develop tumors in their bodies.

New research published in the journal Nature Genetics has shown that genetics is the key factor behind this phenomenon.

In the United States, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for about 90% of lung cancer deaths. The CDC explains that there are more than 7,000 harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, so just smoking a few cigarettes a day increases the risk of lung cancer.

However, the study titled “Single-cell analysis of somatic mutations in human bronchial epithelial cells associated with aging and smoking” by a team of experts at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US, said found that while smoking can cause cell mutations in the lungs, whether it develops into a tumor depends on an individual’s ability to repair or mitigate damage to DNA.

The study used genetic profiles of 14 never-smokers and 19 light, moderate and heavy smokers. The expert team collected lung cells from participants aged 11 to 86 years old and sequenced each individual to identify mutations in their genomes.

As a result, the cells that line the lungs of longtime smokers but don’t have lung cancer appear to be less likely to mutate over time.

“These lung cells persist for years, even decades, and can therefore accumulate mutations with both age and level of smoking. Of all the cell types of the lung, they are one of the cell types most likely to become cancerous,” explains epidemiologist Simon Spivack at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Accordingly, DNA repair genes appear to be more active in some individuals, protecting them against cancer even if they regularly smoke.

The study’s authors claim these findings unequivocally demonstrate that mutations in human lungs increase with natural age. However, the heaviest smokers did not bear the highest “mutation burden”. Although they smoke a lot, the body prevents further accumulation of mutations thanks to effective systems that repair DNA damage or detoxify tobacco smoke.

What’s more, those findings may help explain why some people who never smoke still develop tumors.

Cancer risk may also be rooted in environmental factors such as diet, as nutrients in the body can influence tumor growth, the scientists added.

However, exactly what makes some individuals’ bodies so superior to DNA repair remains an open question.

Geneticist Jan Vijg of the Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, concludes: “We now want to develop new tests that can measure someone’s ability to repair DNA in order to find a way to do this. method of assessing a person’s risk of lung cancer”.

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