Lung cancer detection and prevention: evidence for an interaction between smoking and genetic predisposition
The initiation and promotion of cancer is thought to result from a series of genetic mutations, some of which may be inherited. Our analysis of 337 lung cancer families suggested that, after allowing for an individual's pack-years of tobacco use, the pattern of disease was best explained by Mendelian codominant inheritance of an allele that produced earlier age of onset. Since lung cancer rarely occurs in the absence of exposure to tobacco, differences in the prevalence of smoking across
... oking across generations could have a profound influence on the fit of genetic models. In the present study, families were partitioned into two groups, based on the birth cohort of the proband, i.e., born before World War I (age at death, greater than or equal to 60 years) or born after World War I (age at death, less than 60 years). This partition was chosen because the year 1915 signaled the start of the dramatic rise in tobacco use in the United States. In younger proband families, in which parents were more likely to smoke, Mendelian codominant inheritance provided the best fit to the data. In older proband families, for whom smoking among parents was less prevalent, the "no major gene" and "environmental" hypotheses were rejected; however, no Mendelian models could be distinguished. If the results on the families with the most homogeneous exposure to tobacco across generations (born after World War I) reflect the true underlying biology, then the influence of genetic factors in the pathogenesis of lung has been underestimated; the cumulative probability of lung cancer at age 80 for a noncarrier of the gene, at the average level of tobacco consumption, is close to zero, implying that virtually all lung cancer occurs among gene carriers. Identification of this putative genetic factor has profound implications for the detection and prevention of lung cancer.