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Hushed Genes Might Mean Higher Lung Cancer Risk

The suppression of certain DNA predicts malignancy, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- If the collective activity of 15 genes that protect against lung cancer is too quiet, it could mean that they're being suppressed -- a situation that may lead to lung malignancy, U.S. researchers warn.

A team at the University of Toledo, in Ohio, say a test for these genes in lung cells collected via bronchoscopy could help identify people genetically at risk for lung cancer.

The researchers analyzed the activity of these 15 genes in 25 people with lung cancer and 24 people without the disease.

By doing so, they were able to correctly identify those with lung cancer 96 percent of the time. The findings were to be presented Tuesday at an American Association for Cancer Research Conference in Atlanta.

The genes included in the analysis encode a protective antioxidant and DNA repair proteins found in lung airway cells.

"Smoking causes about 90 percent of all lung cancer cases, yet only about 10 to 15 percent of heavy smokers will develop lung cancer," lead researcher Dr. James C. Willey, an associate professor of medicine and molecular biology at the University of Toledo's College of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"We are looking for new techniques that will allow us to pick out the 10 to 15 percent of individuals at highest risk for lung cancer from the enormous pool of current and former smokers," he said.

The findings from this study justify a larger, prospective study to determine whether this approach is useful in predicting lung cancer in current and former smokers, Willey and his colleagues believe.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about lung cancer risk.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research Conference, Sept. 18, 2007
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