It is well known that mutations in the BRCA genes increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers. But for the first time, researchers from The Institute of Cancer Research in the UK have discovered a link between smokers with a BRCA2 gene mutation and increased risk of lung cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 224,201 Americans will receive a lung cancer diagnosis this year.
It is common knowledge that smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, causing at least 80% of deaths from the disease.
But the researchers of this latest study, led by Richard Houlston, professor of molecular population and genetics at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), say past studies have indicated that genetic factors may also increase lung cancer risk.
To investigate further, the research team compared the DNA of 11,348 European individuals who had lung cancer with the DNA of 15,861 Europeans who were free of the disease.
Their findings, recently published in the journal Nature Genetics, revealed that smokers who had mutations in the BRCA2 gene had a 25% chance of developing lung cancer during their lifetime. Smokers in general have around a 13-15% chance of lung cancer, so the study results show that a BRCA2 gene mutation can increase lung cancer risk even further.