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Home News and Update Year 2010 Mutant Genes in Smokers Tied to Cancer

Mutant Genes in Smokers Tied to Cancer

Times of India
28 May 2010
Chicago, USA

Just Three Cigarettes Enough To Cause Change In DNA Sequence
Every Puff Matters Every Puff Matters
Heavy smokers who get lung cancer may have tens of thousands of genetic mutations, US researchers said.

A team at Roche’s biotechnology unit Genentech in California compared all the genetic changes in a single patient’s lung tumor with healthy tissue from the patient, a 51–year–old man who had smoked an average of 25 cigarettes per day for 15 years before the tumor was removed.

What they found were as many as 50,000 genetic mutations. “Fifty thousand is a huge number. No one has ever reported such a high number,”said Zemin Zhang of Genentech, whose findings appear in the journal Nature. “This is likely associated with the smoking history of the patient. It is very alarming,”Zhang said in a telephone interview said on Wednesday.

Smoking is the biggest single cause of lung cancer, and studies suggest mutations occur with each cigarette smoked.

Zhang said the ratio between the number of cigarettes the person smoked before his tumor was removed and the number of mutations in the tumor suggest that for every three cigarettes he smoked, one genetic mutation occurred.

“It’s a lot more complicated than that,”Zhang said, noting that there are DNA repair mechanisms in the body that help protect against the damage of smoking, but these become less efficient over time.

Zhang said the team was so surprised by the findings they made extra checks to see if they got it wrong. They also looked for anything unusual about the smoker whose tumor they studied. “There is nothing unusual about this sample,”he said.

The findings may be sobering for those contemplating taking up smoking. “If you imagine over a lifetime you are going to develop this many mutations in the genome, some people may think twice about it,”he said.

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